Thu
Aug 4 2011 3:01pm

Fables Reread: Jack of Fables—The Big Book of War (V. 6)

Fables reread on Tor.comThe sixth volume of Jack of Fables is The Big Book of War, which collects issues #28-32. The Big Book of War is all one big arc made up of five chapters, following the confrontation between Revise and the Bookburner on the grounds of Golden Boughs through Jack’s — admittedly not very well informed — eyes. It ends leading into “The Great Fables Crossover,” which we’ve discussed back in the Fables reread.

“Volume One” and “Volume 2” are penciled by Tony Akins and inked by Jose Marzan Jr. “Volume Three” is penciled by Tony Akins and Russ Braun, with inks by Jose Marzan Jr. “Volume Four” is penciled by Tony Akins and inked by Jose Marzan Jr. “Volume Five” is penciled by Tony Akins and inked by Jose Marzan Jr. and Dan Green.

 

What Happens

The Big Book of War opens with Revise speaking to his “troops” about their impending battle when Jack bullies his way up front and, with Gary’s help, declares himself General. Robin survives her stabbing; she, Hillary and Jack move out to start organizing the war effort. Meanwhile, Kevin and Pris arrive at his old apartment where he finds his pen — and promptly writes a pack of jackals into existence to hunt her down. Double-cross! Bookburner attacks, using the giant Paul Bunyan to throw pieces of mountain at Golden Boughs. The battle joins, and Jack has another roll in the hay with Hillary after telling her it was only ever about her.

Pris makes it back to the scene of the battle and runs into Sam, who has plans of his own. He agrees to race her down to the front lines. Bookburner remembers that the Bagmen can be destroyed by slicing their bag-skins, so he sends the knifejohns in to do it. Hillary and Robin are wielding guns at the front line, and Pris with Sam race through the take the enemy’s guns, too. Jack says something that makes Gary think of a way to win the battle—give the Fables trapped at Golden Boughs their powers back. Revise initially refuses to destroy his own life’s work, but Gary calls him a few choice (cute) names and gets him to agree, to save them all. (Jack has no idea what’s going on, but Gary acts like it’s Jack’s plan.) Revise takes them to a room full of the original, unedited Fable texts.

Gary sees the battlefield, then, and loses his shit. He animates everything in sight and sends it after Bookburner’s army. As for the books, we get a flashback to Revise convincing Kevin to lose his own memories if he agrees to allow his books to be edited, and to be placed near his creations if he will no longer remember them. Out on the lines, Goldilocks and her revolution offer their services to Bookburner and get shot down in return; Gary continues to wreak havoc, and Jack & co begin reading the books. Unfortunately, a moment later, Gary gets hit with a tranq dart and he’s out like a light. The Fables agree to parley with Bookburner, while the folks back at Boughs continue to read — Jack goes to the parley and shoots the guy several times just to be an asshole. Jack’s got a plan, though, and so does Revise: release three Native American spirits he trapped. Jack says they should surrender, so Raven goes to surrender, and Bookburner comes in triumphant. Raven leads them to where the books would be while the spirits are released, trapping Bookburner and company in a giant volcano.

Jack reveals, through his own eyes, what happened — he got all the books out in his magic briefcase and had the Fables dig a tunnel out of the town, so they could escape while luring Bookburner onto the grounds of the Golden Boughs. Jack’s going to bail with his money and the books, but the Fables want a leader to Fabletown, and then the Page sisters/Literals point out that Kevin is on the run and dangerous as hell. He needs to keep being the General, and he decides he’ll call in the other Fables to deal with this crap for him. Oh, plus he finds out he’s actually half Literal, and he just slept with his own half sisters.

 

Thoughts

This is the big, climactic volume where the battle joins between Revise and Bookburner, and it’s all right. It’s a bit rushed — the ending happens so fast it has to be explained to the reader in a following dénouement chapter, because we didn’t actually see what happened — but it’s got a lot going for it that’s entertaining.

For example, it’s another volume where the writers manage to work in plenty of subtext about what an ass Jack is alongside Jack’s own interpretations of his actions. It’s really Gary and Revise coming up with the plan to win and give the Fables their powers back, but Gary keeps shoehorning Jack in and trying to make it his idea. Jack is absolutely clueless; after he’s told the books are the original unrevised stories written by Kevin, he still can’t figure out how they’re supposed to be of use. As Revise says, “You really are that stupid, aren’t you?” Also, had to have a giggle at Robin explaining why they’re mad at Jack to Gary and Gary’s reaction: “Jack had—special grownup time with all three of you? But… But… How can all three of you marry him?”

Oh, Gary. He remains my favorite character in the whole series. Plus, he’s pretty amazing when he loses his shit completely — he almost singlehandedly wins them the battle, were it not for that ill-timed tranquilizer dart. After that, once he wakes up, he’s the one who comes up with the saving-grace plan to give the Fables back their original powers via the unrevised stories. Gary is the most dangerous and brilliant of the lot of the Literals, and if it weren’t for Revise’s brain-tinkering, he might be more aware of it. Or, maybe not — he is the Pathetic Fallacy. He’d probably still be a bit goofy and sweet; he just might remember more when he needs it without Revise’s tinkering. (On yet another hand, it’s pointed out in this volume that he sure does remember things right when it counts, which is a little suspicious.)

The next big-bad is set up in this issue, too: Kevin Thorne. Priscilla probably shouldn’t have believed that he was a docile good guy just wanting to help them all out; that wasn’t very bright. I suppose in the heat of the moment it made sense, and no one wants to believe that someone else is a sociopath with a bent towards large-scale destruction. Too bad Kevin actually is. His escape and the finding of his pen is what leads into The Great Fables Crossover, as this volume ends with Jack and his cadre of released Fables at the diner where they meet Bigby and Snow in the opening of Fables V. 13. That was my least favorite volume of Fables, though at least with the Jack series filling in the gaps it seems less pulled out of thin air. (The problem being, of course, that fewer people read Jack of Fables, and if you weren’t caught up, Fables V. 13 is pretty wonky.)

Jack does get his a bit at the end when Revise informs him of his parentage and he realizes he’s repeatedly slept with his own sisters. Raven thinks this is cause for high-fiving, but Jack seems pretty grossed out, though one would think it wouldn’t bother him at all. Apparently, even Jack isn’t down with incest — too late, though. It also puts a lot of things in perspective, knowing he’s half Literal, like his magnetism for stories and ability to place himself directly in the middle of them. Also supports how he successfully replaced Wicked John, despite Wicked John still being around.

As for things I was not so cool with, Jack’s unending casual racism is pretty grating — it’s not funny, it’s not cute, and the other characters really don’t always do enough to balance it out in the narrative. (Argh!)

 

The Art

The main cover of the volume is the best of the lot in The Big Book of War — Jack looks so smarmy, and he’s in his underwear with the fancy General’s vest. Accurate, isn’t it?

The art in the issue is pretty good, but the best bit is the battle between Gary’s animated army of stuff and the giant Paul Bunyan. It’s on such a huge scale, and also has an element of comedy because seeing guard towers with blinky eyes attacking a giant lumberjack is, well, silly. I liked that quite a lot.

*

The Big Book of War is a climactic volume that leads straight into another confrontation in the form of the Fables versus Kevin Thorne.

 

Next week: The New Adventures of Jack and Jack, volume 7 of Jack of Fables.


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

1 comment
cobyscomics
1. cobyscomics
thanks! i just read thru your rereads before reading Fables Vol. 13.

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