I’ll be sad to see “Fables” go when it hits issue #150, but not its latest spinoff title. Particularly if this volume is any indication of the quality of stories we’ll be getting from here on out. It starts off in the Indus realm of the Indian Fables as the strong, proud and capable Nayalani goes to plead with the Maharaja for help defending her village from the Dhole. That the Maharaja turns out to be Prince Charming would’ve been a great surprise except for two things: His return is spoiled on the back cover and by Adam Hughes’ cover for the first issue. If there was ever a douchebag who could be called “likeable,” then he’d certainly be it. So shouldn’t this be a reason to get excited? It would be if writer Sean E. Williams didn’t drag out the story for six issues by padding them with needless diversions, lengthy expository flashbacks, and dialogue that occasionally has some of the “Fables” wit, but is mostly bland. To sum it up: A lot of stuff happens, most of which is really hard to care about.
Williams does try to do something different with the inevitable romance that develops between Charming and Nayalani, but fails to pull it off. It’s clear that he wants to position it as being even more significant than the ones he’s had with Snow White and his other wives. The issue here is that the two of them lack real chemistry together -- another problem with the writer’s dialogue -- and he has to resort to a magical convenience to let us know that this time the Prince’s romance is the real deal. I didn’t buy it, and I can’t imagine other “Fables” fans will either.
There is some good art to be had from Stephen Sadowski, who at least captures the appeal and high adventure inherent in the setting. This is in spite of the fact that his inker, Phil Jimenez (who illustrated this title’s first arc), apparently can’t keep a monthly schedule even when he’s not providing the art. The end result is that we get several inkers collaborating on the art from issue two onwards (plus a special thanks to Zander Cannon at one point), and additional fill-in art from Russ Braun and Meghan Hetrick at one point as well. Though this volume avoids being an artistic train wreck, it’s still hard not to be distracted by the constant stylistic shifts in the art throughout.
“Fairest” was conceived as a showcase for the female “Fables” characters and for Hughes’ cover art. Though the latter has been consistently great from the beginning, only the first volume and the “Fairest: In All The Land” graphic novel have really done these women any justice. At this point, any further reviews you see from this title here will likely be down to the completionist in me.