Or – “The Strange Case Of Jack And Friends…”

I sometimes talk about the madness that is my pull list (down to 2 1/2 pages now, thanks for asking) and managing the titles therein.  Some books make it only to disappear, others show up month after month, even though I haven’t read them in forever.  Jack of Fables and its sister title, Fables, hold the distinction of being the best book I read that isn’t actually on my pull list.  The simple reason for this is that I came in late to the Fables bandwagon (after the third trade, I recall) and by the time I started reading regularly, there were seldom enough copies to cover demand.  Thus, I have fallen into a cycle of reading the last copy on the wall then returning it in time for somebody else to buy the actual copy.  I pick up the trades later, of course, for re-readability, but with a story like Jack’s, I can’t bring myself to wait several months between fixes…  There’s trouble afoot for everyone’s favorite dragon and his pal Gary, and a lot of birds are getting ready to come home and roost.  When you have as many past sins as Jack does, karma can be a global-extinction level event.

Jack Of Fables #49
Written by Bill Willingham & Matt Sturges
Pencils by Tony Akin
Inks by Andrew Pepoy/Dan Green
Colors by Daniel Vozzo
Letters by Todd Klein
Published by Vertigo
$2.99

Previously, on Jack Of Fables:  The hero of his own story, Jack Horner left Fabletown several years ago in search of fame and fortune.  His adventures led him through Hollywood to Vegas into the world of literary non-existence and back.  For the last several months, though, he has been lying in a cave surrounded by the riches he so craves (and also kind of turned into a dragon.)  His son, Jack Frost, has been through a long road to heroism, while seemingly on a collision course with his absent pater familias.  There’s some business with a Fable diner, Wicked John run through with a sword, three hot librarian sisters (all of whom Jack has bagged, in the parlance of the young) and a miniature blue ox with delusions of grandeur that make Doctor Doom look positively modest in comparison.  There’s also been a sense that things are moving to an inevitable conclusion, and that Jack’s story may not have a ‘happily ever after.’  With next issue being announced as the last, there may be change in the future.

Last issue, Wicked John (a version of Jack Horner who may or may not be the original) got tired of being a sideshow attraction, and fled his imprisonment with Excalibur still stuck through his chest.  (Jack himself stuck it there, months ago, in case youre wondering.)  He has headed north, following a mysterious urge, unsure of where he is or where he’s going.  There’s a couple of wonderfully scathing jokes about the mysterious land where he ends up (some call it “America’s Hat”) and we suddenly find that Jack Frost is on the move towards the Great White North as well.  It’s a credit to the plotting that all the characters stay true to what we know of them as they all being inexorably pulling towards Canada.  On the art side, things are looking excellent, with Tony Akin delivering a stellar job, especially in the endless arguing of the ever-lovely Page sisters.  Their clothes-changing scene is pretty racy without being vulgar, and clearly shows that each sister has a completely different and unique physique, always a troublesome depiction in comics.

It think my favorite part of the issue is the fact that nearly every character in the history of the book thus far makes at least a momentary appearance without ever making the book feel crowded or overwrought, as everyone moves towards something bigger.  Even the characters feel it, as Robin Page takes a moment to remind her sibs that she loves them, and remarks about the odd wistfulness of their current quest.  Everyone shows up at the perfectly opportune dramatic moment, as dragon-Jack steps out of his cave for the first time in…  Well, honestly, I don’t know how long.  Given the weirdly elastic nature of Fable-life, it may well have been longer for him than for any of the other characters.  Either way, Jack and Gary the pathetic fallacy step into the light of day to find that literally EVERYONE has arrived at his lair for some unseen purpose.  The book promises that next issue will have a “Shakespearian ending.”  I’ve read just enough classic literature to know that this is a Very Bad Thing indeed, a promise of death and characters forever changed, which kind of makes me sad…

…and then again, kind of doesn’t.  Vertigo books have often followed the lead of Neil Gaiman’s ‘Sandman,’ having an expected ending that they’re building to rather than endlessly retooling and churning out stories regardless of quality.  (No matter how much of a fan you are of major heroes like Spider-Man, Superman, Wolverine and Batman, you have to admit that the drek and the blah outweighs the awesome at least 4 to 1, possibly more.)  Jack Of Fables has been an atypical story from the get-go, and it deserves an actual ending.  After all, a book that has it’s title character turned into a dragon and remaining off-panel for more than a dozen issues SHOULD stand out from the crowd.  This is a quality title month over month, and while it’s sad to see it go, I am happy that it’s still a quality title as things start to wrap up.  This issue is mostly buildup and character work, but it never seems like filler, causing Jack of Fables #49 to earn 4 out of 5 stars overall.  I’m looking forward to next issue with a mix of excitement and dread, and wondering what the future holds for our cast of characters…  That in itself should tell you about the quality of the book.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  Are there any books that you follow regularly but somehow don’t ever buy in individual issue form?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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4 Comments

  1. Kirby
    January 3, 2011 at 7:01 pm — Reply

    Well of series currently being printed, it’s pretty much just all Fables related material.

  2. Rob (fka Smith)
    January 4, 2011 at 2:37 am — Reply

    Quite a few, unfortunately. Green Lantern being at the top.

  3. tidge
    January 4, 2011 at 8:46 am — Reply

    One book that was good enough to buy the single issues, but one that prefer to follow in collected form is Usagi Yojimbo. Also Ex Machina.

    There are plenty of comics I will read *only* in collected editions (from the library) because the quality (and/or value) isn’t there for me to purchase the single issues, such as the “big event” titles from the big two.

  4. Damascus
    March 21, 2011 at 4:18 am — Reply

    The book that might fit the bill for me is The Walking Dead. I came to the party really late on that one and I’m an individual issue kind of guy, so I’m reading from the beginning here and there as I get them, but I guess I just can’t make myself buy issues that are 60-70 down the line from where I’m at. They’d just sit around until I was able to catch up on the story.

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