Mashing up fiction genres is practically a genre unto itself. Some are incredibly popular, such as sci-fi horror and weird westerns. Sometimes though, you run into a much less common mash-up that works so well that you can’t help but question why isn’t not common. That describes exactly what Fairlady is – a fantasy mystery.
Brian Schirmer, Claudia Balboni, Marissa Louise, and David Bowman give us a glimpse into the world of the Harshland in this issue.
Jenner Faulos is the only Fairlady – a loosely organized and licensed group of investigators in a postwar fantasy world. She’s hired by a grieving widow to investigate the death of her husband, a Fairman who was supposedly killed by a dragon and who she suspects is alive. This leads Jenner into some uncomfortable and dangerous places as she tries to determine the truth of his disappearance…
I honestly slept on the first issue of this series. I hadn’t heard anything about the series in advance, but I heard plenty of kudos afterwards. I had to check it out for myself. I absolutely am glad I did.
The structure of the issue is a done in one story, but it’s well crafted. Schirmer lays out clues and leads through the first half of the issue, and then puts them all together over the course of the back half, resulting in a satisfying story cover to cover. He also finds time for world building and character craft. Jenner is an interesting lead, and doesn’t fall into cliche, while the city of the Feld is recognizable but holds some fun secrets. Schirmer does use a couple tropes in his storytelling, but they’re more for economy of storytelling than fallbacks and shortcuts. As a fun bonus, there’s a prose text file from one of Jenner’s old cases in the back of the book!
Balboni and Louise’s work is great. Building a fantasy world from scratch is difficult work, but they ably rise to the occasion. In particular, Jenner and Oanu’s friendship is entirely established through their art, in a mixture of facial expressions and body language. Balboni also plays with layouts, giving story elements emphasis and room to breath. Louise makes this world feel real, and does a lot to establish the settings and mood.
I’m glad I didn’t sleep on this issue as well. The team has a fan and I’m looking forward to the next mystery.
Fairlady #2 is available now from Image Comics.