I'm still torn about the very notion of Fairest, the Fables spinoff that's about the women of that universe. The first issue was perfectly enjoyable--I liked it better than the first issue of Fables itself--but my reaction is all over the place.
So, I think Bill Willingham really excels when he's writing episodes in a bigger overarching story. I'm pretty sure Fables is the only thing I've ever read that I feel that way about--I'm almost always a bigger fan of the "monster of the week" episodes than I am of the "cigarette man conspiracy episodes" (and if you didn't watch X-Files, that won't mean much, but you can translate it to pretty much any franchise you'd like). But I think Fables is always at its strongest when it's going somewhere, whether it's up against the Adversary or the somewhat less compelling Mr. Dark.
That's why the first two trade paperbacks were the weakest, and why the Cinderella spinoffs, while fun, always seemed slight. Willingham needs time to develop things. This one reminded me of Cinderella--pretty good story, but the really compelling parts were the ones that tied tightly to the broader story from Fables. Specifically, that would be the Snow Queen and her return to herself after being a servant of the Adversary for so long.
Okay, all that said, let's talk about what's really bothering me--the idea that the female characters need their own series. Now, I realize that this was probably just the answer to the question "what can we spin off to make some more comics?" And this seems like a very female-positive answer. But the thing is, the women weren't taking a back seat in the main book, and it feels really marginalizing to give them a series of their own.
Also? Let's take a look at some of the covers of the individual issues.
And then the cover of the next trade collection. I'm just saying, there's a lot of naked and near-naked ladies here. It's not that out there for comic books, but it's actually way more sexualized than Fables usually is.
As for the story itself, it's not so bad. There are definitely some riffs on "what women need" and "how relationships really work," but most of them are DEFINITELY made ironically by the annoying pest of a character. I didn't love how one character fell for Ali Baba completely unnecessarily and then the other one felt all left out--there's so much more going on in all these people's lives, and the fact that Ali is just there does not make him all that covetable.
I'm going to keep reading these, make no mistake. Other writers will be coming into the story (the next one will be Lauren Beukes), so we'll see what direction it goes in. The one-off story at the end with Beauty and Beast looks like a really promising exploration of those characters with some good twists. I hold out a lot of hope here.