Fairlady #2 // Review
Every now and then an idea in pop fiction comes along that feels so effortlessly clever that it’s kind of a mystery that no one had thought of it sooner. Fairlady is one of those ideas. Jenner Faulds is a war veteran in a sword-and-sorcery world. She’s been hired as security in a wizard’s tower, but the bulk of her work rests as a “fairlady,” freelance private detective. Writer Brian Schirmer’s high fantasy detective noir looks good in its second outing thanks to the art of Claudia Balboni.
In the second issue of her series, Jenner investigates a murder. The constabulary claims a dragon killed the man. His widow claims otherwise. When it becomes clear that the gentleman in question was a "Fairman" private detective who might have gotten too close to the wrong people, Jenner is caught-up in a conspiracy that might involve some compelling people. Jenner is going to need to call in a favor from the one person she knows on the constabulary. Relationships are tried, as Jenner gets closer to the truth in another one-issue Jenner Faulds mystery.
Schirmer blends fantasy with murder/mystery in a story that leans a bit more heavily in the direction of murder/mystery this time out. On a nuts-and-bolts level, the second issue of Fairlady is a pretty simple gumshoe detective story. Nothing in the story is anything that hasn't already been established by the likes of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Schrimer's atmospheric handling of the sword-and-sorcery setting of the story continues to make Fairlady feel remarkably fresh despite the well-worn format of a standard murder/mystery story. Jenner's heroic boldness as a woman in a predominantly man's field is given a bit more prominence in an issue that makes a stronger case for Jenner as a solid female lead.
A mystery of any kind can be a bit difficult to bring to a comic book page in a way that feels particularly dynamic. Claudia Balboni's gallery of faces haunting this issue feel like a series of subtly detailed portraits which enhance the overall sense of mystery. The fantastic world that the story is taking place in feels refreshingly mundane as Jenner delves into the death of a man who might have been killed by a dragon. The balance between the fantastic and the murder/mystery noir is maintained with great poise by Balboni's vision.
The fusion of genres seems to improve both of them. The nauseating world-building and constant drone of backstory that so dominates the high fantasy genre fades-out in the rigorous structure of the detective murder/mystery. The monotony of the milieu of the down-on-his-luck gumshoe detective is freshened-up by the magical fantasy setting. The greatest weaknesses of both genres seem to fade-out in the fusion. There's brilliance in the single mystery per issue format as well. Readers can jump in at any chapter, which isn't something typically found in the fantasy genre. It's the type of fusion that could find an audience not ordinarily interested in dungeons, dragons or sorcery.