Maybe you're experiencing grim urban fantasy fatigue. Several books, shows, and etc. have introduced various takes on the concepts. And “several” here means “perhaps too many“. They all involve some invisible substrate of reality where our fiction collects and coagulates. Fairy tales are placed under the harsh light of reality. Happy endings continue on into tumultuous lives with grim consequences. Done well, this corner of the comic noir sub-genre exposes the fallacy of fairy tales while still celebrating the need to fantasize. Done poorly -- or done in an uncreative manner -- it results in tired clichés layered over cynicism and pointless violence. The novelty of this concept easily fades and the stories kind of blend together into a dark sludge. But, Fake Empire may have what it takes to stand apart from the crowd.
Fake Empire begins with an act of violence as its inciting action. One of the book's more striking images portrays one of fairy King Oberon's daughters dead atop a pile of garbage. Mirroring this image, another fairy princess, Charli, is identically posed comfortably asleep moments before learning of her sister's death. Brought together by their shared loss and by the vacuum left by the death, the deceased’s sisters reluctantly reunite. Eric Palicki writes dialog that serves to elucidate background information without feeling terribly forced. We get a few pages with which to get acquainted with the surviving princesses. Little references and shifts in tone establish enough of a past history that we almost don't need the handful of occasional flashbacks. The script establishes enough of its own rules while describing character roles and relationships very well. Thankfully, Palicki avoids having characters just tell each other things they would all likely know already. There's a lot left pleasantly unexplained, though I hope future issues continue to dole out exposition naturally.
Rebellious sister Lucy initially comes across as very simply childish and self-indulgent. However, a late issue reveal lets us in on a greater purpose among the fairy king's daughters. Her earlier alienation from her family seems very straightforward until we get to spend some time with her. That's good character work. Charli, the sister who seems to have her life mostly under control is presented as somewhat out of the loop when it comes to her own family. It’s nice to have characters with multiple facets so early on.
Fake Empire's mystery is merely introduced here. We get few clues as to the murderer's identity. And there's very little in the way of motivation for the killing. The primary questions of this first issue, for me, come down to the meaning of the book's title. Does the title refer to the presumed fictional nature of fairies or to the King's desire to hold on to a fading glory? Is the layer of fiction occupied by fairies facing destruction from disbelief, as feared by King Oberon? No idea.
I’m interested. And there’s enough left to the imagination that I feel there’s an actual mystery ahead.
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Fake Empire #1 Writer: Eric Palicki Artist: Vinnie Rico Colorist: Fred C. Stresing Publisher: Darby Pop Publishing Format: Mini-series; Digital/Print