By: Bill Willingham (writer), Phil Jiminez (penciller), Andy Lanning (inker), Andrew Dalhouse (colorist)

The Story: Sleeping Beauty, you say “We’ll have to snuggle” like it’s a bad thing.

The Review: When you have a successful series, it’s natural to start thinking of spin-off opportunities.  After all, more of a good thing is always a good thing, right?  In mainstream comics, all you need is that one big hit or a character gets some sudden, widespread attention, and before you know it, you suddenly have four Deadpool titles on the stands.  Only afterwards does anybody consider whether there’s even enough material to spread that thin.

No one can deny that Fables easily ranks among Vertigo’s most popular and successful titles.  And as I’ve mentioned any number of times, the series has plenty of characters and stories to draw upon.  In theory, a second ongoing series from the property sounds like a very good idea, particularly since Jack of Fables was such a hit on its own right.

I’m just not so sure one featuring the many princesses and princes of legend has quite the same zing to it.  Jack Horner has such a complicated, twisted personality and history that Willingham can pretty much write him forever and never run out of new things to discover.  Our “fairest” folk, on the other hand, are pretty well-known to begin with and while they’ve revealed edgier sides to themselves in Fables, they make better ensemble characters than protagonists.

Like her fellow princesses, Briar Rose is more than just a pretty face, but so far she seems like an amalgamation of all the traits her peers possess: a little toughness (“I can run you into the ground on my worst day!”), a little sassiness (“Don’t get fresh.”), and a little thoughtfulness (“…if we don’t do more to get warm it won’t matter if she’s the one who gets us.  We’ll be just as dead.”).  In other words, she doesn’t feel flat as a character, but she’s just not all that striking in any way.  Her co-lead, Ali Baba, isn’t much more personable, but he proves surprisingly sensitive here.  To Rose: “[You’re] not my property.  I don’t treat women that way, nor anyone else for that matter.”  Despite this, neither he nor Rose can manage more than a rather tired, begrudging chemistry,

If their constant bickering doesn’t grate on you, Panghammer will do the job.  He seems to fill the issue with long, pointless rambles about, to use a technical term, the stupidest crap you can think of, including the biologically inferior physiology of women to men (which only manages to skirt away from being offensive by its nigh-apologetic attention to scientific detail) and the abstract mechanics of magical curses.  In between, he throws in some truly lame jokes, which barely illicit even a smile from you, if that: “…you two were screaming like…uh…like a couple of very loud screamy things…”

Still, you can’t help feeling a vague interest in what will happen next, since Rose, Ali, and Panghammer all fall into the grasp of the Snow Queen, who, now that she’s awakened, remains the last great figure of the decrepit Empire.  Her pointed interest in Rose’s origin story seems surprising at first, but it does seem to recall the naïve, almost childlike woman she’d been before Jack Horner—speak of the devil—had his way with her.  We’ll see if that innocent winter maiden will appear again, and if a good fairy tale is enough to make it happen.

Looking at Jiminez’s art, you’d have no idea it depicts a largely underwhelming script.  It’s true he makes some wildly attractive characters, but he also has the good taste to make them look believable, unlike the implausible god-men and women Ed Benes tends to draw.  Jiminez’s attention to detail is second to none, which is made plain by his rendition of Briar’s kingdom home and christening, from the unique design of each fairy godmother to the fantastically realistic architectural features.

Conclusion: Outstanding art elevates an otherwise merely functional story.  Like the Snow Queen, you curiosity to know what happens next only just outweighs your wish to kill the characters.

Grade: B-

-Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Hadeon the Destroyer has good reason to be pissed at the non-invite, considering Rose’s parents invited purple Shrek to the party.