You Walked In Just Like Smoke: Fairlady #1

I knew I knew writer Brian Schirmer's name from somewhere and that somewhere was Whitechapel, from years and years ago. Between now and then, he wrote Black Jack Ketchum for Claudia Balboni to draw, and those two now return with the first issue of a new ongoing comic called Fairlady.

Saga + Rat Queens is the RIYL going around, but that's not true. Fairlady feels Columbo or Magnum P.I. after the end of Return Of The King. Or Burn Notice after the end of Return Of The King. Or any serial detective story with an overarching A plot and the week's mystery, the B plot. To give the Saga comparison its due, the work of Balboni (Black Jack Ketchum, Star Trek) and colorist Marissa Louise (Grumble, Hex Wives, Spell On Wheels) really does channel Fiona Staples, or at least are influenced by the same influences. Fairlady stars two humanoids, and Schirmer (Black Jack Ketchum, Ultrasylvania) discovered a rhythm for dialogue. That's it.

As for Rat Queens, it's only in setting. Neither lead goes around sexing or snorting anything in plain sight. They're not hunting monsters. It's a detective story in a fantasy setting. (I haven't seen a town set in the corpse of a giant since a Duane Swierczynski issue of Iron Fist.)

Like many good detective stories, Jenner Faulds, the female protagonist, struggles against the weight of a strong moral compass. She's a soldier returned from the war who now works as a private investigator. Yes, this is present in Saga, but here it more closely also in Robert Galbraith's Commoran Strike series. (And yes, I know who Robert Galbraith is.) Her partner is a catman, in this series, called a Jessu.

Fairlady's format, every issue a single issue mystery, allows a reader to jump in and out at their leisure. This counts for quite a bit in my book. With so much decompression and writing for the trade in today's market, it's nice to see a series go in the other direction.

I didn't realize it until they pointed it out, but the cover's an homage to Frank Quietly and Alex Sinclair's first Batman & Robin cover. That might be my biggest takeaway for the series: They made it easy to get into the comic, and once inside, like a comfortable pair of slippers, I'm gonna stick around.

You Walked In Just Like Smoke: Fairlady #1

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About James Hepplewhite

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