The contents of “Fairest” #33 were originally solicited to appear in November 2013 as “Fairest” #21, but the issue was postponed and all future issues stepped back one space in terms of numbering. The reason why you should know this is because Bill Willingham and Meghan Hetrick’s “Fairest” #33 is a direct prologue to the “Fairest of Them All” graphic novel, which was also published in November 2013, and — by losing that publication slot on the schedule — there’s no denying that this comic loses a little bit of its punch.
Billed as “the penultimate adventures (and misadventures) of one of our more delightful villains,” “Fairest” #33 follows Goldilocks as she’s on the run from the rest of Fable society, even as she tries to build her own power back up one way or another. The end result is a long, zigzagging story through different dimensions as Goldilocks addresses the reader and explains why her lack of being the fairest of them all is what’s really holding her back.
What’s nice about Willingham’s script here is that it lets you make your own decision about Goldilocks’ statements. Is her inability to come out ahead really tied into her looks (versus those of characters like Snow White, Cinderella or Rose Red) and a part of the overall backbone of the “Fables” universe? Or is this the ranting of someone who’s coming up with excuses to deflect the real blame, namely her inability to make the right decisions? Willingham serves both of those up; every time something goes wrong, one gets the impression that Goldilocks brought it upon herself.
Goldilocks’ actual adventures are what don’t work quite so well. In many ways, it’s an aimless meandering, one that’s leading up to a story where we (presumably) know how it will end. Knowing that conclusion looming ahead wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing — prequels can be fun, after all — but there’s nothing save for Goldilocks’ increasingly delusional rants to hang your interest upon. For a handful of pages, it’s good — but by the end, you’re increasingly hoping that the conclusion is around the corner. Goldilocks as protagonist doesn’t work; lacking a heroine to go up against, she’s a bit tiresome.
Hetrick’s art sure is beautiful, though, and a great choice for “Fairest.” She draws everyone with smooth, clean lines and Andrew Dalhouse’s colors bring to mind a gentle watercolor effect when paired with them. Whatever Willingham throws at Hetrick — massive roaches, blue-furred bipedal foxes, a swamp full of green fireflies — she draws with ease and an overall inviting nature. Hetrick is an artist we definitely don’t see enough of in comics.
“Fairest” #33 is an odd wrap-up for the series, an issue that served a greater purpose but fell victim to some sort of scheduling problem. After the fact, it lacks a bit of punch, one that could have helped carry it past its other issues. In the end, though, the great art and the amusing-at-first nature of its protagonist can’t quite balance out the stumbles.