Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges’ Great Fables Crossover

Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges (writers),
Mark Buckingham, Tony Akins, Ross Braun, Andrew Pepoy, José Marzán, Jr and Dan Green (artists),
Lee Loughridge and Daniel Vozzo (colorists)
and Todd Klein (letterer),
Fables 13: The Great Fables Crossover (Vertigo 2010)

fables13.jpgThe crossover of this title refers, not to any plot developments in the continuing tale of the Fables (see my earlier posts on Books 1, 3–4, 5, 6–10, and 11–12), but to the fact that its contents were first published in three separate comics franchises – Nos 83–85 of Fables, Nos 33–35 of the spin-off Jack of Fables, and the first and so far only 3 issues of The Literals.

There’s a fairly bumpy start for those of us who haven’t seen Jack since he long ago stormed out to start his own franchise. It seems that he has been heading an army, toying with the affections of a formidable trio of sisters (no, not the Fates but the Page sisters, glamorous librarians with special powers), and generally amassing an entourage of odd non-human and possibly immortal characters. Perhaps readers of Jack of Fables will feel at home; latecomers like me can work it out as we go.

The Mister Dark story arc is put on ice for a story involving the Literals – personifications of aspects of the story-producing process. The most powerful Literal is Pathetic Fallacy, but he rarely uses his power because, well, he’s pathetic. There’s the Reviser, the enemy of imagination. There are the Genres. There’s Writer’s Block, a drooling idiot in a straitjacket. And so on.

Much meta fun is to be had, and this crossover sequence may have been intended to introduce a separate Literals franchise. But it turns out to be a bit of a squib. Rather than character development there’s silliness (the Writer turns Bigby Wolf into a cute little girl) and violence (the cute little girl has a couple of pages of graphic mayhem – and I remind you that the technical meaning of mayhem is the ripping off of parts of an opponent’s body). Though the Genres argue among themselves about how to fight the Fables, it’s the more violent ones – Blockbuster, War, Western and Science Fiction – rather than romance or Comedy, who dominate the action. The comic ends up being a grim reminder of just how militarised the US and its imagination have become.

Of course there are good things: the weird Boy Blue cult that developed in Volume 11 takes an interesting turn; a strange little blue bull, possibly familiar from the Jack of Fables franchise, does a deft parody of a Snoopy Peanuts strip; Jack Frost, son of Jack and the Snow Queen, has a lovely coming-of-age story; the meta elements are interesting – to what extent, for example, do characters take on a life of their own so that their creator can’t change them?

I guess it’s good to know that Jack of Fables exists, but I haven’t been seized with an irresistible urge to read it. I’m looking forward to getting back to the Mister Dark story in Volume 14.

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