by Bill Willingham & Matthew Sturges (writers), Tony Akins (pencils), Andrew Pepoy & Dan Green (inks), Lee Loughridge (colors), and Todd Klein (letters)

The Story: Jack returns to the Fables world, taking control of the farm, a weak Rose Red, and Stinky’s Boy Blue cult in the process.

What’s Good: For better or for worse, this was a Jack of Fables comic without Gary or the textboxes. While a lot of people can’t stand Jack’s Deadpool-esque breaking of the fourth wall, I love it. He only does it a couple of times in this issue, but both times, I laughed; it’s quite clever. What I like even more is that this issue finally explained Jack’s ability to do this, tying it to his being half-literal.

What’s-Not-So-Good: I am a huge Fables fan. Furthermore, I love Jack as a character and read his series as well. I find him incredibly humorous and am definitely not among the vocal “Jack hating” party. However, I do not exaggerate when I say that this is one of the worst issues of Fables/Jack of Fables that I have ever read.

The elephant in the room: Jack as semi-rapist.  It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this angry towards a comic. Willingham and Sturges, writers who I have long admired, have truly, utterly crossed a line here. I understand that Jack is without morals and I understand his Byronic sexual hunger. However, Byron, despite being somewhat incestuous like Jack, was not a rapist. Jack was always meant to be the “lovable asshole”, the self-centered twit who conducted himself with complete moral abandon, but always in such a way that we could still laugh and get behind him. I’m sorry, but I don’t see how I can laugh at something that nears on the rape of one of Fables’ most beloved characters. I don’t see how I can support a rapist. Willingham and Sturges have moved Jack from “affable rogue” to “depraved villain.” It’s absolutely sickening; this is disgusting stuff and a huge mistake.

What’s also bad, is Akins’ art. I normally love Tony Akins for his comedic potential and what he’s able to do with cartoonish facial expressions. However, when Jack spends half the issue in Rose’s bed, Akins’ art only makes it worse. His depictions of Jack’s face making the quasi-rape all the more nauseating; his depictions of the wasted-away, broken Rose making it all the more vile. Jack’s banter and Akins’ art try to extract comedy where there is none, and as a result, Akins’ comedic style makes the whole affair look like an underground European sex comic. Instead of bringing laughs, it brings vomit. It’s sad that Akins has an issue long struggle with drawing Beauty. He just can’t do it.

The other major problem is this “Great Fables Crossover” itself.  I had faith last month, but now, as we near the halfway mark, I finally admit that it’s floundering.  This issue is a complete stall, not advancing the major plot or the conflicts with Mr. Dark or Kevin Thorn in any perceivable way.  The fables don’t believe in the Literals…and that’s it.   Also, this issue proves that there are just too many disparate elements.  Crossovers NEED one, big central issue/conflict to drive them and to necessitate their existence. So far, we have TWO entirely separate conflicts in Mr. Dark and Kevin Thorn, but as if that’s not enough, we also have other issues like the Boy Blue cult and Jack Frost.  As a result, this issue moves forward with the latter two smaller issues, while throwing the two major conflicts on the backburner.  This crossover is turning into an aimless, and pointless debacle and I’m failing to see why keeping Mr. Dark and the Boy Blue cult in Fables and Thorn and Jack Frost in Jack wouldn’t have been better.

Conclusion: From a plot perspective, this issue is a waste of time.  Nothing moves the major conflict forward, and there are just too many damned minor issues going on at once.  However, if you are a Jack of Fables reader or are looking to be one, skip this issue. I’ve never said this before. Skip it. You don’t want to see Jack as a rapist, as it will ruin the character for you.

Grade: D

-Alex Evans