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Jack Of Fables Vol 5: Turning Pages COMICS RETROSPECTIVE. This one was almost too meta, even for me.


Jack Of Fables Volume 5: Turning Pages.

Collecting 'Jack Of Fables' Issues 22-27.

Written by Bill Willingham & Matthew Sturges.

Pencils by Tony Akins (Issues 22-24) & Russ Braun (Issues 24-27)

Inks by Andrew Pepoy (Issues 22-23), Jose Marzan (Issues 23-27)

& Steve Leialoha (Issues 24).


Last time around, we took a trip through the American history of story. There were more zombies than I expected, but fewer than I would have liked. We also met Mr Bookburner, another entry in the ever-increasing pantheon of Literals. This one is slightly more hardcore than the others, though. Even more so than Mr Revise. And he's got a bug in his butt about what a soft touch his brother has become. So, now, he's declared war on Mr Revise, and after that... on Fablekind! But first, we have a self-contained cowboy adventure! Because sometimes, you just need to fill some pages.


Chapter 22: The Legend of Smiling Jack - Chapter One of 1883.

Jack has been many things, in his long and storied life. Hollywood douchebag, Vegas douchebag, Fabletown douchebag, Confederate douchebag. Now, we're here to hear the tale of the time he was a cowboy douchebag. It goes about how you'd expect it to.


Chapter 23: Moon of The Wolf - Chapter Two of 1883.

With Bigby Wolf hot on his trail, Jack does what Jack does best: acts like a dick. So, when someone steals his silver bullets, his only option is to track them down. Meanwhile, after his last run-in with Jack, Bigby needs to let off some steam. . . it doesn't end quite as well as he'd hoped.


Chapter 24: The SHOWDOWN - Chapter Three of 1883.

Jack Candle, down one more gangmember, decides his only chance is to return to his old stomping grounds, and hope the town protects him. It goes about as well as it ever does, when a bully expects those they bullied to stand up for them.


Chapter 25: Robin - Chapter One of Turning Pages.

Back in the present day, we're introduced to Eliza Wall, who wants to tell us the story of her young cousins, the Page sisters, AKA the Librarians of Golden Boughs, and Jack's three latest conquests. Meanwhile, Priscilla returns to Golden Boughs with a captive and some bad news. Neither is met how she expected.



Chapter 26: Priscilla - Chapter Two of Turning Pages.

We continue our guide to the Page sisters, this time it's Priscilla, who just wanted to marry a Narwhal. EVERYONE loves Priscilla. Except for her father Mr Revise, and herself. But that may be all about to change...


Chapter 27: Hillary - Chapter Three of Turning Pages.

Ms Wall reveals her true purpose in this tale: she's here to do the unthinkable and save Jack's life! But first, we must finish off our trio of tales and meeting the youngest Page sibling, Hillary. Captured by Bookburner, as he slowly marches towards Golden Boughs, Hillary looks to be in something of a pickle. Thankfully, she's badass. But will that be enough?


I don't know, Bigby. Us Mundys can be pretty intuitive!

Well, that was very much a story of two halves, wasn't it? We open up with a classic, pulp-inspired tale of cowboy times, as Jack does his best to Jack all over the American west, and Bigby tries to stop him. It wasn't great, I can't lie. I was almost ready to write this whole volume off. . . but then Willingham pulled it back, in the second half! Bringing us quite possibly the most meta tale we've had so far, in what has already been an EXTREMELY meta series. I can't really hate that, can I?

I really want Tate to meet Mr Horse, Jane Foster's talking Vanir horse from Mighty Valkyrie.

Okay, so first off: even having just come off a months-long Red Dead Redemption 2 play through, which really left me in the cowboy mood, I couldn't get into the first tale. There was nothing obviously wrong with it; the writing and art were as good as always, the vaguely 1950s pulp style was on point and it was great to see my favourite Fable Bigby Wolf again. But, while there was nothing obviously wrong with this tale, there wasn't really anything RIGHT about it, either. Jack obviously has no development in it, if Jack was the kind of person that COULD develop, he would have by now. He's only ever going to be a douchebag, that's his thing. But I was sort of hoping we'd at least develop the world a little, or maybe give some interesting background for OTHER characters. . . but unless I missed something, there was none of that, either.


Now, I know what you're thinking: "Chill out, dude. Sometimes a story is just there to entertain. They don't all need to be ABOUT something!" and that is undoubtedly true. Even in an ongoing series like this, each chapter doesn't necessarily HAVE to advance the plot or characters, in some way. It's fine to just have a story that is there for its own sake. . .


The problem is, this wasn't a particularly entertaining story, either. It MIGHT have worked as a standalone tale, with Bigby chasing Jack to get him to stop killing people, rather than stretching too little story over too many issues. It MIGHT have worked if they'd delved more into Jack's brief comments that he no longer values Mundy lives after everything he saw during the war, to try and explain why he's such a tool, and make him a little more sympathetic.


Instead, we just get three issues of Jack riding around murdering people, before getting his ass kicked, and then it's all done and we have to wonder why we bothered with any of it. . .

The sight gags were excellent, as always.

But don't worry, folks! Because as bad as the first arc is, the second arc more than makes up for it. Are you ready for Meta Overload?


Because, we're about to meet Ms Wall. Younger sister of three brothers, you could say, she's the Fourth Wall. and she's here to talk directly to us today, to let us know about what's going on in the tale, right now.


Buckle in, it's only going to get worse (which is to say, better) from here.


The Page Sisters are probably my favourite part of this little side adventure. Alongside Pathetic Fallacy, they're interesting and relatable characters that more than make up for the fact Jack is such an unlikable twat.


So, naturally, I'm rather pleased that they get some more backstory and get fleshed out a little more as characters, in this arc. Each chapter starts with a little backstory, before connecting those character points up to where the sisters are now; we learn about Robin, who was always the most devoted, and see her now realising that she's been fooled by Jack. We learn about Priscilla who was always Robin's opposite and tried a little too hard to fit in, and is now setting out on her own tale, and then we wrap it up with Hillary, who always wanted to be a Fable, and is now learning to be her own kind of hero. It's kind of fun seeing these ladies get more development in one issue, than Jack has had in five volumes. . .


But then, woven throughout those moments is the continuing story of Mr Bookburner and his army of forgotten stories, marching ever closer to Golden Boughs.


I must say, issue 27 features probably my favourite splash page we've had yet in the extended FableVerse, as we get a brief introduction to some of Bookburner's soldiers. The idea that we SHOULD know these characters, like The Mysterious Hornswaggle, as well as we know the other Fables, but don't, because Bookburner got to them first is as intriguing as it is tragic. Not only because some of them sound awesome, but because they now serve as a dire warning of what could happen to our favourite Fables, should someone, somewhere, decide that they're no longer fit for purpose and should be pruned away.


In a story that is so obviously, lovingly about the power of stories, having a villain who is basically the concept of editing, or total story erasure, seems too perfect for words. The fact that I'm reading this story at a time when so many people in positions of power are using that power to say what books can and can't be read, and are literally trying to do exactly what the villains here are attempting makes the whole thing hit home a little harder than I expected.


Of course, at any given time, in any given place, there is probably someone trying to tell us what is and isn't allowed to be read. But, thankfully, there are always people out there willing to stand in the way of those boring bastards, just as the Fables are going to now. Fingers crossed, we all win in the end.

And how can we not win, when we have DEX on our side? Yup. They went there. Not content with having the narrator directly address us to relay this tale. . . when things got rough and it looked like our heroes had no chance of winning they were saved by. . . Deus Ex Machina. I actually laughed out loud, when I read this panel. It was SO freakin ridiculous it absolutely should not have worked. But the whole scene was so tongue in cheek, and fit so well in an arc where our narrator, who constantly stops to address us directly, was also the fourth wall, that it felt like there was honestly no other way they could have resolved this particular conflict. Topping it all off with Dex saying that he can't save Robin, who had been injured in the fight, because he can only use his powers sporadically, or he gets too old. . . I mean, I WANT to be able to criticise it, it's SUCH a ballsy move that I can't believe Willingham even considered it, let alone actually made it work. But man, the evidence is right there. It worked entirely too well.


I'm actually with Jack on this one. You NEVER leave a good sandwich on the plate.

Overall, Volume 5 was uneven. A somewhat lacking first arc drags the whole volume down, beyond even the point that a hilariously meta and perfectly sculpted second arc can't bring it back above merely "acceptable".


When Jack Of Fables is on form, it's an excellent series. And it seems like it's building towards a really strong climax, that COULD tell a great, meaningful tale about the power of stories and why we need to use a light hand, when we edit them. . .


But the problem is, whenever we get a great tale that hits on all those points, we also seem to get one that's just about Jack being an asshole to everyone, and it just kinda ruins the flow, for me.


So, if you're ready to fight for story, come back next time for Jack Of Fables Volume 6: The Big Book Of War! Collecting chapters 28-32! When Bookburner's army attacks Revise's compound, Jack returns not as a prisoner but as Commander-in-Chief. In this new title secrets are revealed, including the strange relationships between Jack and the Page sisters! Which I'm hoping isn't a familial relationship, because they're all hooked up.


There were a few options of "Jack getting hurt" this volume. I like this one though, the tears really sell it.

 

Taheg Gloder is a Freelance Copywriter from England. Obsessed with comics and Manga since his teens, he now splits his time between writing comic reviews and retrospectives for POP, and doing reactions on his YouTube Channel, The Dragon & The Hound. He lives alone, because he’s a hermit.

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