How far would you go to find out the end of a potboiler with a missing last page?
Jenner Faulds takes the cases nobody else wants. Who is the man in the cat mask, and why is he willing to pay her so much? Find out in Fairlady #4!
Writer: Brian Schirmer
Artist: Claudia Balboni
Colorist: Marissa Louise
Letterer: David Bowman
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: July 17, 2019
Previously in Fairlady: Jenner Faulds (the investigator who is the Fairlady of the title) must investigate the death of her own client, a barbarian who wanted to get away from it all and hired her to try to find him so he could tell if he was hiding well enough. It’s a strange one, but a job’s a job. After she finds him dead, his girlfriend attacks her. But after she views the body of the departed, it turns out he wasn’t who he said he was. This sets Jenner off to find the actual barbarian, and she does find where he lives, but he’s not there. Maybe someone was after him. Maybe someone is testing her. Not all mysteries can be tidily solved.
A KIND OF SHAGGY DOG MYSTERY
I’ve really been enjoying the episodic mysteries such as the one in Fairlady #4. In fact, I can really identify with this one and it gave me some good chuckles along the way. Remember that Jenner gets the cases no one else wants, and that includes some weird ones. We open with her blindfolded and tied to a chair with a burly guard standing next to her. How did she end up here? Her flashback to what started this all is pretty much her sitting blindfolded and tied to a chair with a burly guard next to her.
It’s a sensitive case, or at least a sensitive client. The reveal of the client in his ridiculous mask is comical, but then he tells her of the job. He wants her to track down a book, but not just any book. It’s an elaborate whodunit where the murderer is revealed on the very last page, but – horror of horrors! – the last page of the book is missing. Now I can sympathize with this client. He’s willing to pay a huge sum to get this page and put the book to rest.
It seems like a pretty simple job, so she takes it. Her first thought is just to read the book and figure it out on her own, but even that isn’t easy. She tries to get Nejla to help to no avail. She visits the Library, which is staffed by simulacra. One of them fills us in a bit. There was a war not long ago; books are now a rarity, and they are no longer mass produced. She does talk her way in to the tentacled creature who is apparently the Librarian and promptly gets arrested.
Camershon does let her go with a warning not to go back and pester the Librarian. But Jenner is nothing if not as persistent as a terrier. She visits Husker. Not only does he know where a copy may be, he owns one. He won’t sell it to her, but he’ll trade it for her services in finding some things for him. She doggedly tracks down everything on his list, gets the book, turns to the end – and the last page is gone. As she gets more worked up, she goes to the bar only to hear that the news of the day is about some guy vandalizing books at the library.
I don’t want to spoil a mystery, but I will say there are a couple more twists and turns before we get to a truly delightful ending. It’s a charming, light story that just keeps building to the end. And the subplot about the book hits home too, in a bit of satire.
DRAMA WITH SOME CLEVER USE OF LIGHT AND DARK
There’s good use of repeating scenes with subtle differences in Fairlady #4. I like the contrast between the ultra-clandestine hire with the masked client, helmeted guard, and precautions for secrecy played against the utter goofiness of someone wanting to get a copy of a book to find out how it ended. That contrast makes the humor that much funnier. The art itself is deadpan.
I also like the judicious use of dark panels to set of dialogue. This is done in a couple different ways. One of them is the conversation when Jenner is hooded. Black panels reflect the fact that she can’t see what’s going on, and color sets off who is talking. This is echoed later when Jenner has a conversation with Nejla under different, but still dark, circumstances. It’s a challenge because the expression has to be in the spoken word, leaving it up to our imagination, but it works. There’s also good use of a couple pages that are full dark with only a few words of dialogue. It reflects how seriously some of the characters are taking this, and sets up for a following joke.
BOTTOM LINE: A LIGHT MYSTERY WITH A HUMOROUS TOUCH
Fairlady #4 takes a look at one of Jenner’s more mundane, or at least less dangerous, cases. There’s a delightful bit of worldbuilding lurking just under the surface of the mystery which makes this issue extra fun.