Fables Reread

Fables Reread: Jack of Fables—The End (V. 9)

The final volume of Jack of Fables is aptly titled The End, and it collects issues #46-50. It takes place a long jump after The Fulminate Blade, with Jack (F) having lived a long time and the ex-Literals edging close to elderly, in Gary’s case, and middle-aged, in the case of the Page sisters. Jack (H) is still a dragon sitting his hoard. It’s all got to come to a head, though, because Jack (F) was going to retire until he gets a call about a real-live dragon he can kill to end his career.

The End is a five-part arc titled “The Ultimate Jack of Fables Story,” written by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges. Pencillers are Tony Akins and Russ Braun; inkers are Andrew Pepoy, Dan Green, Tony Akins, and Bill Reinhold. Daniel Vozzo continues to do the colors and Todd Klein the lettering, with covers by Brian Bolland. (One added credit in this collection: “publication design” by Curtis King Jr.)

 

What Happens

The volume opens with the Page sisters looking for books — and wreaking havoc in a library that’s claimed to have some of the Real Books. They execute the head librarian. Meanwhile, a much older and buffer Jack and a shiny golden MacDuff are still having science fiction adventures, but are contemplating retiring. Next comes “Jack the Dragon and Gary,” a cartoony view into what they’re doing; mostly, Jack’s been eating Gary’s girlfriends and abusing his hospitality. Jack (F) gets a call through a robot that there’s a dragon needs killing and decides to un-retire so he can mark that off his hero-list. (MacDuff tells the story of getting his new gold body to the robot, too.)

The Page sisters find one of the “real” books and it leads them to the woman who sold it to the collection, who got them from her ex-husband, who had gotten too weird for her to be around — wanting payment in cows and whatnot. His name was Gary. Things are coming together; the young nerd who married Gary’s mannequin girlfriend and their kids are heading to the old diner on Route 66, which is now run by the exile Fables from Golden Boughs. Wicked John, meanwhile, finally breaks out of his captivity in the Grand Canyon and goes berserk. (Turns out Robin’s baby is with Sam, and he comes to pick the kid up before they go off to find the rest of the books.) Raven’s spirit bird comes to him and tells him to get off his ass, so he gathers up all his exiles to head off to protect Jack-the-dragon—but tells them it’s the way to Fabletown. Jack-the-dragon and Gary can both sense something’s coming, as Jack (F) heads for them. Wicked John is on the way, too; everyone’s going to converge on the treasure hoard.

Everyone shows up at once; Jack (F) and MacDuff, the exiles of Golden Boughs, Wicked John, and the Page sisters. A battle joins; while it goes on, the Page sisters find the cache of books, but Jack the dragon burns them in retaliation. The battle goes and goes and goes, ending with Jack the dragon decapitating Jack (F) as Jack (F) stabs him through the heart. They all die, even the turtle who escapes. At the end, the devils all come for Jack (H)’s soul, but they’re so busy fighting he escapes them and goes to hitchhike like he was in the opening volume. Except, dead.

 

Thoughts

Remember that aside in the post about The Fulminate Blade where I wish I could pretend that was where the comic ended?

That’s because of this volume. I assume the attempt here was to go gonzo and just kill everyone off, with violent farce bringing the giggles and whatnot, considering the sports-announcement overlay, but… well. What this arc actually succeeds at doing is convincing me that Willingham & Sturges didn’t have much of a plan for ending Jack of Fables and ran out of issues to do it in, so this happened. It feels forced, thrown-together and all together inane — as if someone wrote a crack fanfiction, and then it somehow became the actual ending. There’s no rhyme or reason to the whole thing; it’s almost entirely out of character and gratuitous, and after the high point of the prior volume, it’s even worse.

I know, that’s pretty harsh. But I dropped the book in frustrated disgust the first time I finished it, so, I’m not going to lie about my reaction. I was baffled as to why this was how the storyline in Jack of Fables falls apart — because it felt like falling apart, not like a well-plotted ending. (Having looked around the internet neighborhood, it seems that was a common reaction, actually.)

While it’s distinctly possible that this ending will be erased — Jack’s spirit wandering around is suggestive, especially since we know he’s come back to life before — it was still just a waste of a set of interesting, generally developed characters who could have been handled more deftly. Hell, it’s not a Shakespearean ending that I dislike; Hamlet is my favorite drama! But Hamlet makes sense. The End doesn’t make sense. It’s over-the-top, unbelievable, suspension-of-disbelief-shattering gore and death, which is just not the sort of thing Fables trades in, and it’s not the sort of thing I care for without appropriate context.

As for the good parts — there were some, I’m not a total harpy. I got quite a lot of enjoyment out of seeing Jack (F) and MacDuff puttering around their home and making plans for retirement, hearing MacDuff’s story about how he got a golden body to replace the wooden mess he was at the end of the eighth volume, and all of that. It was great fun, and rather sweet also, watching the good friends do their thing (while we also see the collapse of Jack’s relationship with his bud, Gary, though Gary still sticks around to the last). It’s a good juxtaposition of father and son, again, before the story goes off the rails.

 

The Art

Grown-up Jack with his eyepatch and perpetual inability to wear a shirt is interesting; a little eyecandy to match the Page sisters, who are regularly taking their clothes off and changing into spandex catsuits in this volume. The most interesting bit is the way that they’ve all aged, though; Gary is elderly, the Page sisters are all getting crow’s feet.

The most amusing cover is the one used as the back of the collection: Jack perusing a How to Slay Dragons book while MacDuff makes a surprised face at Jack-the-dragon looming behind them.

*

That’s all, folks. The End is the last volume of Jack of Fables, and the regular Fables series doesn’t have another trade collection coming out until December of this year. Not the best closing note, I know, but there’ll be one more post to wrap this all up and bring us back around to the Fables series proper.

 

Next week: the wrap-up.


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

citation

3 Comments

Subscribe to this thread

Post a Comment

All comments must meet the community standards outlined in Tor.com's Moderation Policy or be subject to moderation. Thank you for keeping the discussion, and our community, civil and respectful.

Hate the CAPTCHA? Tor.com members can edit comments, skip the preview, and never have to prove they're not robots. Join now!

Our Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.