I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for Phil Jimenez’s pencils, which is how I ended up buying “Fairest” #2. After a lackluster story in the opening chapter, my original plan was to just wait until the fall when the next creative team comes on board, but Jimenez’s art is always gorgeous and with Sleeping Beauty finally in the main story I thought I’d give the series just one more chance.
On the plus side, “Fairest” is visually one of the fairest in land — or rather the comic market. Jimenez and inker Andy Lanning work well together. Ali Baba and Briar Rose both look just amazing; every detail is in place from errant locks of hair to a rustling, ornate gown for Sleeping Beauty. Jimenez and Lanning can do a lot with expressions; the cold gaze of the Snow Queen (no pun intended) when she states, “Run” is withering and the screams of terror when the goblin horde attacks our heroes feel genuine. These expressive faces make the featureless snow giants that much creepier as a result, a nice touch to a new menace.
Jimenez is one of those artists who can pack an immense amount of detail onto a page, like the royal hall in the palace and keep it from feeling cluttered or overworked. It helps that he and Lanning use thin, fine lines as well as Jimenez’s understanding of how to lay out a page to draw the reader’s eyes to just the right places. Some of the layouts are especially nice, like the final page with the Snow Queen’s face framed in the bottom half. It feels like a piece of fine art with its lush composition and it’s a reminder on why Jimenez is such an in-demand artist.
Unfortunately, the story itself still fails to deliver. Ali Baba and Jonah the imp are both still thoroughly annoying without even the pretense of charm present. Sleeping Beauty at least gets a few barbs in, but it feels like she’s less of a character and more of an object. The fact that she apparently doesn’t even know her own origin (hard to believe considering that she lived in modern day Earth for many years) is unbelievable, as well as a thin excuse to retell the set-up of “Sleeping Beauty” for a quarter of the comic. “Fairest” still feels uninspired and slightly lazy. There’s remarkably little plot here and as much as I appreciate page after page of Jimenez’s art, I’d have liked a little more meat to what he draws. Pages of them running and then telling a story that everyone is familiar with is hardly riveting material, doubly so when it’s accompanied by non-stop bickering.
If you found “Fairest” #1 disappointing, nothing will have changed in your opinion of this series based on #2. The comic gets extremely high marks for the art, because it’s outstanding. I wish I could say the same for the rest of the book. Jimenez and Lanning are doing the heavy lifting and while I’d love to see them come back for another “Fairest” story down the line, here’s hoping for them being paired with a different writer for their next go-round.