Fairlady #4 // Review
Jenner Faulds is a Fairlady private detective. In a sword-and-sorcery fantasy world, she’s been through a lot. Her series may only be four issues old, but author Brian Schirmer has already plunged Jenner into some really interesting and dangerous mystery adventures. The latest issue has Jenner kidnapped by a client who demands that she find a rare mystery...a murder mystery. The only known copy appears to have the final page ripped from it. It’s up to Jenner to find a copy with the final page intact in a story brought to the page by artist Claudia Balboni.
As seen at the end of the last issue, Jenner’s been captured. As it turns out, the one who captured her is a little man in a cat mask who demands that she locate a rare murder-mystery book for him. The search for the book finds Jenner in a variety of places. Including the company of collectors and the confines of a somewhat restrictive library. When news of vandalism at the library makes it to Jenner, she doesn’t even have to ask to know which book has been vandalized. Or which page has been taken from it. The only question is...who is the vandal?
Schirmer’s story leans over in the direction of science fantasy in a story featuring magical simulacra who can transcribe books in the form of magical mass-printing. The story has shades of Philip K. Dick’s early short stories about information in a world of semi-magical automation. The plot arcs elegantly in a series of scenes that make the potentially dull search for a rare book feel like a strange and bewildering adventure that still remains solidly grounded in the gumshoe detective genre that it draws inspiration from. Once again, Schrimer is cleverly developing a brilliant series that draws some of the more pleasantly addictive qualities of both the fantasy and murder-mystery genres.
The world of Fairlady continues to walk through some fascinating terrain visually. Balboni is given some exciting challenges in making a captive situation feel very cramped and claustrophobic while maintaining a compelling sense of wonder and mystery in the story. The cramped prison of the first scene opens up, as Jenner’s search brings her to the tower that is her home. The immense library which is sure to have a copy of the rare book and more. The artist’s rendering of mystery in casual conversation continues to impress. Balboni’s rendering of an inhuman librarian is particularly accomplished. The personalist of a cloaked squid-like librarian with numerous eyes comes across with a sharp sense of personality even though its appearance robs it the ability to visually convey emotion.
Schirmer and Balboni blend genres in a moody comedic mystery that feels quite distinctly unlike anything else available right now. Jenner and her friends fuse well with the monthly comic book format once more. The episodic nature of a monthly comic book is perfectly grafted to yet another fun excursion into another world.