February 14th, 2011

Fables Volume 13: The Great Fables Crossover
Review by Gavin O’Reilly

Unfamiliar to the Fables universe and concept as I was when I was first asked to have a look at this volume, I was still eager to give it a go as I had heard so many good things. The panel border and boundary breaking between myth and reality that has become a rising genre in its own right (e.g. “The Unwritten” by Bill halfahead, previously reviewed here at LF) really seems to get its origin, at least in its current form, from Bill Willingham’s Fables series.

This volume is the entitled The Great Fables Crossover, and that is exactly what it is, and it brings with it the hazards of any crossover. The intertwining is between the Fables main series and the popular spin off Jack of Fables (also previously reviewed here at LF). In order to educate myself before reviewing this thirteenth volume of the main Fables series, I backtracked and read all the first twelve volumes. I am very I glad I did on two counts; the first twelve volumes are a rollicking ride and some of the best comic I have read in some time. Secondly, if I hadn’t done it, I don’t think I could have made the slightest bit of it whatsoever.

In other words- this is most definitely not a pick-up point for a new reader.

In fact, what slightly peeved me is that I still didn’t understand everything because I would need also to be fully versed in Jack of Fables to get full enjoyment. That, teamed with quite a change in story and style direction, would suggest that this was unlucky volume thirteen, for new and indeed old readers alike.

This may be slightly unfair as I had just come off the amazing bus ride of the first major story arc that spanned the first twelve volumes when reading this. It does add an interesting concept or two about scribes “writing” our universe, and indeed theirs. This idea could probably be dissected more on its own, and seems to be over with Jack, and it does add a very definite danger to the fable characters, and even unites the mundys (mundanes or regular humans) with them, in a sense at least, as the threat posed by reality changers endangers both. This threat is the main concern of the tale- it didn’t grab the way previous volumes had done- but it does bounce along at fairly enjoyable lark of a pace.

The art is a bit hit and miss, as this tale was done over two titles, their respective artists do most of the handling, which would be consistency cause for concern anyway, but there is the odd substitute on top of that. Both artists dealt with breaking the fourth wall quite well, which can be a little mawkish in the wrong hands, and can pull the reader out of the story more than its meant to if not executed well.

What is more interesting in the story is the little threads of potential leads being set up throughout- the animal fables creating a cult, the introduction of Jack Frost, and potentially most interestingly- the idea of the political upheaval in the homelands now that the structure of the Adversary’s tyranny is gone. One does quite like getting to know the fallen adversary, in an odd way his knowledge of how things were done under his rule, and his warnings to the his captors gives a good sense of foreboding that will keep me in the fold until the next volume.

In short- if your new to Fables, don’t start with this volume- I do highly recommend the first twelve as a very worthwhile investment though. If you’re an existing reader be prepared for a change in direction, but lets hope that some of the ideas set here will lead us into another story arc as thrilling as the first- with twelve Eisner awards under its belt, I am sure Mister Willingham can come up with another tale to enthrall us all.

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