The Great Fables Crossover
"Fables" is probably one of my favorite comics series that's still going on (it's definitely right up there with "Hellboy" and "DMZ"). Its spinoff, "Jack of Fables," has also been a great series, becoming both a bit more of an epic fantasy while simultaneously evolving into a deliciously metatextual satire of the same. Although both series have largely drifted apart, a crossover was inevitable. There have been minor overlaps (for instance, one of Bigby's kids stabbing a doll of Jack with a toy sword the same Jack himself is stabbed with a real one), but this book, officially "Fables" collection #13, is the first all-out crossover, where the casts of the two series finally interact.
Which makes what we actually get a little bit of a letdown. Because it's not a crossover, or not exactly. What it is, in fact, is two stories, one basically a "Jack" story (one definite plot surrounding a small group of characters attempting to deal with one central issue, with occasional metatextual asides) while the other is a "Fables" story (various minor subplots all coalescing around a location). The fact that Jack is at the center of the "Fables" story while "Fables" stalwarts Snow White and Bigby take charge of the "Jack" story is an interesting twist, and both stories are satisfying, but it just seems like a copout.
Another problem this presents is that while this story is about an epic struggle between our heroes and an almost unstoppable enemy in the form of Kevin Thorn aka the Literal in charge of writing stories and the creator of all the Fables, "Fables" already had an epic foe in the form of the mysterious Mr. Dark, who is shoved into a minor cameo demonstrating how New York City is going down the tubes thanks to his presence. The problem is, while Mr. Dark is a dangerous elemental force, Kevin Thorn is pretty much literally a god, if one who's not particularly vicious. The effect of having this storyline occur here, rather than before Mr. Dark appeared on the scene or after he's dealt with, makes it look like writer Bill Willingham has forgotten about him, as well as making any attempt to deal with him in future issues of "Fables" seem ridiculous, as Bigby et al. have already fought a force that at least theoretically should be stronger than he is. The fact that Bigby and crew actually go to NYC in the middle of their story and don't comment at all on how crime-ridden and horrible it is now doesn't make this any better.
Aside from those problems, the crossover is actually pretty good. Willingham has always had a knack for creating a lot of interesting characters, and we get to see pretty much all the extended casts of both series throughout the crossover. Jack's story, where he returns the the Farm and is mistaken by Stinky the badger's cult as the reincarnation of Boy Blue, was particularly satisfying, as it allows Jack to be an asshole to characters he hasn't interacted with since he was forcibly ejected from the series. The introduction of Jack's son, the naive Jack Frost, is also fun, as we get to see what horrible, horrible ideas of heroism the older Jack is able to sneak into the younger's head. Stinky (who now insists on being called "Brock Blueheart") and his cult are also evolving into a worrying force, with rhetoric that sounds disturbingly reminscient of both the rebels from the "Animal Farm" storyline as well as Gepetto's imperialist philosophy. This definitely bodes ill, even if Stinky is talked down a bit as the story progresses.
The other storyline has Bigby and Snow accompanying Gary the Pathetic Fallacy and Mr. Revise, as well as Babe the Blue Ox (who continues to daydream strange fantasies, including one that's a clear dig at Snoopy) to deal with Kevin Thorn, who's planning on rewriting the world, as he's grown disgusted with how it has evolved in ways he dislikes. Except Kevin quite literally has a case of writer's block, and can't think of anything to write except petty revenges on people who annoy him. To figure out what to do he summons up the Genres, Literals incarnating different kinds of stories. The Genres are really the best part of the story, as they look and act as the most exaggerated caricatures of their subjects: Horror is a creepy little girl, for example, while Blockbuster is a musclebound he-man whose solution to pretty much every problem is guns or bombs. My favorites, however, were Fantasy and Science Fiction (inevitable, I suppose), SF being a guy in a space suit with a ray gun while Fantasy is a elf maiden constantly spouting prose that sounds like the worst possible Tolkein ripoff. When Fantasy comments that she and her brother work so well together that "sometimes I don't know where you end and I begin" I rolled on the floor laughing.
All in all, the crossover was pretty good, even if Willingham cheated a bit by instead doing two stories in one rather than one big huge story. The story at the Farm was particularly good, and the one revolving around fighting Kevin Thorn was also satisfying, even if it does set up problems down the line with how to top it when "Fables" confronts Mr. Dark. If you're a fan of either or both series, this is a must-read. If you're new to both, you should stay away, as this is not a great starting point.
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