In this issue, we learn what happens when you anger a Jessu. Hint: It’s like when you anger a Wookie.
Written by Brian Schirmer
Illustrated by Claudia Balboni
Colored by Marissa Louise
Lettered by David Bowman
Every fantasy epic ends with a war. But what happens when the war is over? After posing as a man to join the army, Jenner Faulds returns home to The Feld for a new start as a “Fairman”—a specially licensed private investigator. But sexism didn’t end on the battlefield, and as the only “Fairlady,” Jenner gets stuck with the cases nobody else wants. Hitting the streets to solve The Feld’s overlooked mysteries, Jenner finds that the smallest cases hide the biggest secrets. Writer Brian Schirmer, artist Claudia Balboni (Star Trek), and colorist Marissa Louise team up for FAIRLADY—an all-new series with the procedural case-solving of Magnum P.I. and Fables, but set in a vibrant, RAT QUEENS-like high fantasy world. Plus, this—and every—issue contains a complete 30-page story!
Going in I wasn’t quite sure what to make of “Fairlady” from writer Brian Schirmer with artist Claudia Balboni and Marissa Louise. I did remember a blog post acting thirsty over lead Jenner Faulds feline companion. What I got was a series that elevator pitched itself as Magnum P.I. set in a post-War of the Ring fantasy setting offering single issue cases. That pitch is not too far off from the end result, as the debut issues a solid one shot featuring Jenner Fauld attempting to find a missing accountant who absconded with some gold and has criminals on her tail. The first issue of “Fairlady” offers workman like worldbuilding that rightly lets technicalities of the world exist in the negative space as an unspoken context as it works through the investigative procedural. The fact that the town of Feld is made out the remains of giant Celstial-esque being is just treated as normal is wonderful.
“Fairlady” is an enjoyable read in the way procedurals like Magnum or Murder, She Wrote are enjoyable to watch. While giving us a bit more about Jenner Fauld may have been nice, there is an admirable efficacy to two paragraph synopsis at the start of the issue. Balboni’s character acting is enough to give the sense of life to Fauld as well. She is the lead of a procedural series, those kinds of characters are never ultra-detailed or dynamic. What detail we are given, that she posed as a man to fight in the war and now works as most veterans in private investigations, but through sexism is discounted and ostracized, is enough for everything to work in this opening issue. “Fairlady” treats issues of sexism and racism as matter of fact, letting them inform the fantastical environment with an immediately understandable reality.
The first case in “Fairlady” shows Schirmer has the ability to use the detective procedural to explore a world while also hunting for a prize in dramatically effective ways. The plot of this issue may focus on the hunt for a missing bookie, but it’s really dealing with the affects of the war on the populace and attempts at living in that post-War world.
As with shows like Magnum, “Fairlady” has just the right amount of wit and charm to it. Line artist Claudia Baboni’s page designs aren’t hyper detailed, but they have an easy flow and hit their marks. One page that sees our two leads ascending via an elevator contrasted with David Bowman’s lettering of unknown narration that makes for a simple but visually pleasing and engaging page. That kind of thinking is evident by the opening page, a simple vertical stack of five panels that sees Jenner, her companion, and the Landlord have a chat. The Landlord slowly gets more and more mouthy until things can only end one way. Having that page lead into the credits spread is excellent craftmanship. “Fairlady” is littered with functional and clever page construction. Baboni’s ability to create an easy sense of flow and use the page real estate in conjunction with Schirmer’s solid scripting, made this one of the more friction-less reads you can have. Like the television procedural, there is this sort of classic mentality of just lulling the audience into the media.Continued below
While Claudia Balboni’s page design and overall art is consistent, that consistency is why some pages stand out as being oddly lacking. In “Fairlady” #1 3-pages, a single page and double page spread, stand apart as not making efficient or good use of their page real-estate and come off as awkward padding.
The single page reads as this awkward transitional page. Balboni places a roughly one third sized panel in the middle of the page, sandwiching it between pure gutter darkness. The content of the panel is supposed end the previous pages montage journey Jenner was on and return us to the scene from the first page. The page crudely gets this point across with the black gutter space that fails to match the nighttime sky above. It’s a page where two thirds of the page are not used, and that one third that is fails to evoke an environmental mood in the manner panels on the previous page did so well.
Of the wasteful pages, the double page spread towards the end of the issues narrative stands out more. The spread is broken up into four horizontal panels in a rough diagonal line. For an issue that has such nice moments of flow, the choppiness in this spread stands out. The core content of each panel isn’t aligned, making the reading line more like a set of stares. Once again, roughly two thirds of the space is unfilled negative gutter space that dose nothing to enhance the positive space. This is a spread that did not need to be one, a tight one page with easy vertical reading line would’ve delivered the same effect.
It is only three pages, or 10 percent of the issues narrative content, but these pages aren’t well conceived that pad the issue to fill space. The unused negative space makes it stand out the most considering Balboni’s pages this issue often make efficient use of page real estate. In a market that consistently is trying to find the bare minimum to ink out an extra bit on the margin, doing 30 pages is a bold move. Part of the sales pitch for “Fairlady” is each issue will contain a 30-page story. The unspoken pitch being that it will actually approach a reading experience justifying the now standard $3.99 price. In the aggregate the first issue of “Fairlady,” and the recently relaunched “Lazarus,” do read like a more fulfilling experience. Why wouldn’t the creative team make the most of those 30 pages?
Final Verdict: 7.5 – “Fairlady” is an overall solid procedural and comic that lacks distracting frills as it gives you the fantasy procedural you were sold on.