by Whitney Grace
Rewriting fairy tales for a contemporary audience has been a popular trend for awhile. Disney’s Once Upon a Time series, various Hollywood movies, and young adult novels have kept it going. When it comes to comic retellings of favored old stories, Bill Willingham’s Fables is the star pupil in this genre. Fables is over a hundred issues strong with several spin-off series, including the newest Fairest. It debuted as a way for the Fables female cast to tell more of their own stories.
In the first volume, which takes place after the Adversary War, we meet Ali Baba, the prince of thieves, scouting for a genie in a bottle to grant him three wishes. Instead he finds a bottle imp with less than semi-phenomenal nearly cosmic powers, but who promises to help Ali Baba get his desired riches. Enter Briar Rose aka Sleeping Beauty and Lumi, the Snow Queen, both victims of Briar Rose’s sleeping curse and kept under a goblin hoard’s watchful eye. Ali Baba wakes both of them up with a kiss of true love, but Lumi is not very happy that she was forced to sleep for many years. She takes her temper out on the goblin hoard, while Ali Baba and Briar Rose attempt to escape.
As they wander in perilous snow, the bottle imp entertains them with Briar Rose’s life story and reveals secrets the princess did not even know. Lumi catches up to the pair, but spares their lives to hear the rest of the story. It turns out the Snow Queen is a story addict and during her time as the Adversary’s henchman she was not able to indulge herself. For the bottle imp to fulfill his promise to Ali Baba, Briar Rose needs to fall in love with the thief. She has other ideas, however, just like the Snow Queen. When a dark force from Briar Rose’s past show up, things get even more interesting.
Rapunzel takes center stage in volume two and it occurs years before Fabletown even had an inkling to go to war. Before Rapunzel joined the exiled fables in the mundy (our) word, she made a detour in the Hidden World-home to Japanese fables. She joined the imperial court as a curiosity and became Tomoko’s, a fox demon, lover. Rapunzel lived in a hazy bliss, but the Adversary’s forces crept into her new home. The Japanese fables managed to flee to the mundy world and unlike the Fabletown residents’ homelands, the Hidden World never fell. Rapunzel thwarted the invasion, but she also kept the Japanese fables from returning home. Her “children” blocked the way.
The Japanese fables have lived in the mundy world for hundreds of years, but they split into two factions: those who wish to remain and those who wish to return home. Rapunzel must journey back Japan to meet old friends and foes, not all is what it seems, though. Rapunzel reopens the portal to the Hidden World, but also to truths tucked away with it.
Fairest is the start of a strong, new series that will reveal even more secrets about our favorite fables. So far Willingham is using it as a vehicle to tell side stories that do not necessarily fit into the main storyline. Unlike Jack of Fables, which had a parallel storyline, Willingham may be wanting to keep Fairest for one-shots and back stories. If this pattern continues it will only enhance the main Fables storyline, tying up loose details and the like. If, however, he does make Fairest a spin-off, there is no telling what direction it will lead the characters, though we assume it will be good.