Review by Frank Plowright
This is an oversize hardcover presentation of what was previously collected as The Great Fables Crossover, and if there’s one Fables collection that can, and possibly should, be avoided it’s this. The scheming rogue character applied to Jack of All Tales resulted in him quickly topping the popularity ratings for Fables cast members, and he was spun off into his own comic. A different style of writing was applied to Jack of Fables, relying more on surreal twists and a comedic tone. Bill Willingham co-wrote most issues, collaborating with Matthew Sturges. This book spins Jack back into the Fables world while maintaining his own cast and introducing a new threat.
The Great Fables Crossover starts well enough as Willingham and Mark Buckingham continue the cliffhanger from The Dark Ages, concluding that Mister Dark’s re-emergence is connected with magic somehow becoming untethered from the previously established status quo. They’re then notified by Jack of beings known as the Literals, who shape destiny via writing stories, and one Kevin Thorn is doing that. His plan is to scrap the current universe and write an improved version. Thankfully for the plot, he’s cursed with writer’s block.
Much of the remainder appears to be seat of the pants plotting. Random elements are thrown in to see where they might lead: a character is aged from infant to adult over a page and sent to wander the world; Bigby is subjected to a series of ever-more embarrassing transformations; Thorn consults with personifications of genre, amusingly designed by Buckingham, who modify his creativity.
It inculcates a sense of padding not usually apparent in Fables, although the conclusion, which seems an awful long time in coming, displays the creativity and surprise elements that are.
There’s also Thorn himself. In one sense he represents an extended whine about the difficulties of writing, noting how characters take over to chart their own course, and how varying the genre approach can produce startlingly different results. Do we really want the curtain drawn back?
The lasting effect on Fables is the growth of a cult among the Farm inhabitants based on the return of a dead hero. The one time Stinky the badger now wants to dignified with the name Brock Blueheart, and there’s not only been a change in his personality, but in his appearance.
Buckingham, Russ Braun and Tony Akins alternate on drawing the material, with Akins having a looser approach, although not to the point of significant contrast. These stories are also collected in the third Fables Compendium.