Thu
Aug 11 2011 3:50pm
Fables Reread: Jack of Fables—The New Adventures of Jack and Jack (V. 7)

Fables reread on Tor.comThe seventh collected volume of Jack of Fables is The New Adventures of Jack and Jack, which puts together issues #36-40. (As you may notice, #33-35 are missing; they were put into Fables V. 13, The Great Fables Crossover, instead.) There are two story arcs: “Jack ’n Apes” and the titular “New Adventures of Jack and Jack.” The first is a short, while the other has four chapters and takes up most of the volume. Some weird things are afoot in the Jack universe in this volume — Jack’s son, for one thing, and Jack himself turning into a totally different kind of creature.

The New Adventures of Jack and Jack has three writers: Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges, and Chris Roberson. The pencillers are Russ Braun and Tony Akins, with inks by Jose Marzan Jr., Andrew Pepoy, Tony Akins, and Russ Braun (again). As usual, the colorist is Daniel Vozzo, the letterer is Todd Klein, and the covers are by Brian Bolland.

 

What Happens

Jack and Gary are sitting in a diner, and Gary wants to go somewhere warmer, which leads to Jack telling another of his stories — “Jack ’n apes.” In it, he gets lost in a jungle in west Africa after being thrown off a ship, and is found by a cadre of talking apes, chimps, et cetera who escaped from the Homelands. They all want to get to the Farm for modern living again, but Jack’s got a price on his head for trying to run a brothel/gambling house in Morocco, so instead of leading the primates or making a deal with them he’s captured. They rescue him on the promise that he’ll take them to the Farm, and when he gets out, he spends some years among them. (He never says whether he took them to the Farm or not.) In the end, he tells his story to a guy named Edgar, who goes on to make a mint off of them as the Tarzan books.

The next part is where the bigger story-arc starts. It opens with Jack and Gary on the road — and Jack getting fat — but this arc actually has a whole different Jack as protagonist: Jack Frost, after the ordeal with Kevin Thorne. He’s whining about his parentage when Robin tells him to get over it and go live his life however he wants to. So, he heads back to the old heart of the Empire, gives his mother’s powers back (though he retains some that are apparently his), and gets attacked by goblins. A wooden owl, Geppetto’s old pet, helps rescue him, and in return he fixes the owl up and names it MacDuff. Together, they’re going to go join the hero trade. Of course, while you’d think there’d be monsters everywhere, the townspeople Jack encounters mostly have him rounding up stray livestock and doing errands, so when he builds up enough juice, he jumps himself and MacDuff to the modern Mundy world again. And, wouldn’t you know it, across the street at a diner are Jack Horner and Gary. Jack’s clutching his gold tight, and getting progressively bigger while eating even more, and Gary’s stuck paying for everything with odd jobs. Jack suspects something’s up, because Fables don’t get older or suddenly become obese.

After printing up some flyers, Jack Frost jumps them back to another pre-industrial Fables world where there are forest-monsters eating people. A handsome young woman begs his assistance and he agrees to help rescue her family’s holdings from the monsters, free of charge. They make it back through the forest somehow un-assaulted and find the holdfast abandoned, with signs of a struggle, but no bodies — and the monsters piling up outside. The monsters grab them and take them to an underground hall, where they’re locked up with the other live villagers and her father. (Meanwhile, Jack H. is shapeshifting — and now has a big scaly tail.)

As it turns out, though, the king of the forest-monsters needs a hero, and he’s been rounding up people to try and find Jack Frost. Jack agrees to do his task if he’ll agree to a peace treaty with the humans. There’s a sorcerer trying to take the monsters as his slaves, and Jack has to stop him. (In other lands, Jack H. has just turned into a big dragon with a treasure horde. Gary has to bring him cows to eat.) Jack Frost fights the sorcerer, who calls up a bunch of subterranean ant-monsters that bury Jack while MacDuff is negotiates with the forest-monster king. Jack survives, crawls out behind the guy, and collapses a tower on him. The forest-monster he was traveling with is pleased. The people all celebrate MacDuff and not Jack in the end, because he’s the one who made the treaty work, but — well. Jack’s still doing good for himself.

Also, as Gary finds in another book, Jack’s turned into a dragon because he got selfish in a bad way and started hoarding. There’s no way to get turned back, either — somebody just has to come slay him. Oops.

 

Thoughts

As those who know me well have probably already guessed, this volume has one bit that I really, really, love — a talking wooden owl companion named after a character in a Shakespeare play, who’s also really smart! I can’t help myself; it’s so adorable. MacDuff becomes my favorite character almost from the moment he comes on-scene. The parallels between Jack Frost and MacDuff with Jack H. and Gary are interesting; there’s the element of the “sidekick,” but Frost respects his quite a lot more than his father does his own sidekick. Additionally, while Gary may be smart, he’s also dim in a lot of ways and he doesn’t communicate well — MacDuff, on the other hand, seems to be very good at communication and go-betweening, judging by his part in negotiating a treaty in this volume.

The way they treat their sidekicks is a good illustration of the real differences between Horner and Frost — Jack Frost is aware of what a giant asshole his father is and wants to avoid being that kind of person. He wants to do good for others, not for money or women but because it’s the right thing to do. (In fact, he’s rather surprised at the end of the volume when the landholder says he can marry his daughter. It doesn’t say if he just says no, or if he does agree to marry her, or if he’s romanced by her. It does say we’ll see her again soon, though.)

It may have become obvious by now, but I like Jack Frost quite a lot more than his father as a lead character. He’s a nice guy — maybe not world-wise yet, but a nice guy who wants to do good things. Plus, his banter with MacDuff about idioms and Shakespeare makes me think he’s pretty damned smart in a way that his father never was and never could be. Obviously, he reads. I assume that’s the sort of thing a young man does when trapped in a castle for a really long time. I also respect that he decides to give his mother’s powers back to make it a for-real break from her, since she’s one of the baddies. He could just keep them and claim he’s cut himself off from her, but he doesn’t. He chooses to stand on his own — though, it turns out he’s pretty tough on his own, too. Part Fable and part Literal, with magic of is own, Jack Frost isn’t exactly helpless.

Then, there’s what’s happened to Jack Horner during the course of this volume. He and Gary have forgotten all about what happened during and before the battle with Kevin Thorne, for the most part — there are a few slips where he asks Gary to animate some trees and Gary’s like, “huh?” and then they’re both confused. They have what seems to be submerged memories instead of total amnesia, but it makes no difference. In the end, after losing some of his powers the same way Gary did, Jack falls into place in another story, that of Fafnir. He gets greedy and selfish, refuses to share or spend his gold with his “brother”/sidekick, and slowly but surely turns into a dragon. There’s no turning back, either, as Gary explains it — just getting slain by a dragon-killer. Oops? That’s not good, but it sets up what’s obviously going to happen by the end: Jack Frost is out to be a hero, and all good heroes need to kill a dragon at some point. Hmm.

While it’s not an evenly written volume, I’m so relieved to have a new and more enjoyable pair of lead characters in the forms of Jack Frost and MacDuff, I enjoyed it.

 

The Art

The art in the first section — illustrated by Tony Akins — is mixed; Jack isn’t drawn very well, but all of the primates have quite a bit of detail and individuality, which is nifty. As for the covers, I think my favorite is the volume’s cover; Jack Frost has such a pleased “off for adventure!” look on his face, surrounded by strange figures observing him and his mother looking down as if proud from above. It might be, er, out of character for Lumi, but it’s still a bit sweet. (I wish the owl had been included, though.)

Speaking of which, I love MacDuff. It’s hard to illustrate a wooden creature with movement and emotion, but it’s done quite well here.

*

The New Adventures of Jack and Jack switches us to a new protagonist with the name Jack — Mr. Frost, who’s a whole different kind of guy.

Next week: the eighth volume of Jack of FablesThe Fulminate Blade.


Brit Mandelo is a multi-fandom geek with a special love for comics and queer literature. She can be found on Twitter and Livejournal.

2 comments
Lenny Bailes
1. lennyb
For what it's worth, I think the Jack Frost adventures, as delivered in this collection and the next one, are somewhat informed by/influenced by the narrative in Robert Heinlein's Glory Road.

"A person must be everything - a warrior, a pacifist a staunch individual."

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