by Paul Jenkins, Ramon Bachs, and Leonardo Paciarotti
Paul Jenkins’ stories in Fablewood have been a really enjoyable take on the world of fables and fairy tale characters. The genre has been touched on a good bit in recent years between the Vertigo series, Fables, and the popular television series, Once Upon a Time. With the initial stories, Jenkins used the characters and world to discuss concepts such as predetermined roles, militant control, thought police and rebellion. Here, readers return to the land of Fablewood to witness a crime and meet a new character, named Detective Frankie Mack.
Jenkins opens with a fun and curious play on the concept of these stories when he claims that at the center of each one is a crime. Readers pull in on an egg-shaped man sitting atop a wall, and to no one’s surprise, he soon finds himself lying broken at the foot of that very wall. But the twist here is that an unseen individual pushes Humpty Dumpty. Detective Frankie, his partner Simon and Mrs. Dumpty arrive on the scene and it becomes clear that in this world of fictional characters, the witches and the queens are at odds with each other. With any knowledge of the villain characters of these children’s stories, setting evil queens and wicked witches against each other is bound to be ugly for any caught in between.
In the initial Fablewood stories, Jenkins had partnered with artist Humberto Ramos to bring this fictional story to life. With Fiction Squad, Ramon Bachs and Leonardo Paciarotti have taken over. They two combine for a similar aesthetic, bringing a hyperbolic, cartoonish style that is rather fitting for the concept. In the same way, Paciarotti’s coloring, while very different from the techniques used in Fairy Quest, still present in a way that feels bright and fun. Bachs’ pencil work is a good match with his ability to capture the movement and spirit of most of the characters. There is a very clear issue with the way that the female characters are constructed, however. While the concept could border on all-ages, and existing in the same world as Fairy Quest, the physique of the three female characters portrayed in this book do not feel like they belong. Alice, Mrs. Dumpty and Daisy look as though they belong in an entirely different story for a different audience.
The idea is pretty interesting this time around. While Fairy Quest seems to be more of a concept of free will and adventures, which could connect with readers differently depending on their ages, Fiction Squad has a much more noir and crime drama tone. Jenkins has presented some great ideas already in issue one, and the seeds of what is to come make this a pretty cool new series. As Detective Mack turns to some of his regular sources, there is a smart use of a lot of the characters and their stories. A few instances tend to grate a bit as the puns and nods to the nursery rhymes wear a little as the story moves forward. Still, the integration of the different worlds and tales make the overall experience rather fun and Fiction Squad #1 is a good opening chapter.