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

The Story: Jack meets his son, offering fatherly advice before he and Rose are shipped off to Wolf Manor.

What’s Good: Jack’s comedy seems to be a bit better than it was last issue. This still isn’t the funniest Jack issue, but it has its moments. Jack’s interactions and the “sagely wisdom” he offers Jack Frost is quintessential Jack and is all the more enjoyable for it. It’s funny, self-centered stuff. I also enjoyed Jack meeting the cubs and giving them an education in vice.  Not laugh out loud funny, but it’s a cute moment that shows Jack mentoring the kids around a poker table.

I also thought Jack’s manipulation of Frost at the end was smart stuff. It was interesting to see Jack reasoning and behaving exactly like a Literal and not realizing that he was. I really do enjoy it when Willingham and Sturges play up Jack’s Literal heritage, as this served as another method of breaking the fourth wall.

Akins’ work is as loaded with comedy as ever. He may be no Mark Buckingham, but he does have a unique style that works well with this story. Once again, Akins manages to draw a wide array of humorous facial expressions that lead to some really memorable panels– Jack’s expression when caught stealing Bigby’s booze is absolutely priceless.

What’s Not So Good: I tried to keep believing in it as long as I could, but the fact is that this crossover just sucks. It just doesn’t have the scope and nuance to demand nine issues to tell it. Fables #85 only provides further proof of this.

This issue is all but completely pointless. The only item of any importance is Jack sending off Frost, which takes all of a single page. That means that plot-wise, this is about 20 pages of filler. Nothing important happens.

What’s worse, nothing RELEVENT happens. For the most part, this issue has absolutely nothing to do with the crossover. Sure Willingham throws in a couple pages of Old Sam planning on stealing Thorn’s pen (and what a “no duh” moment that is) to make us think this is a crossover issue, but it’s not like those scenes were particularly vital either. It’s just the seventh issue of Thorn hesitating. What does the Boy Blue cult have to do with the conflict with Thorn? What does Jack’s arrival in Wolf Manor and his meeting the cubs have to do with the effort to stop the creative Literal? The answers are nothing and nothing; and unfortunately, most of the issue is spent on these two topics. The fact that Thorn isn’t even mentioned by any of the characters on the farm until the very last page certainly doesn’t help.

Conclusion: Fables is a cute, fairly amusing comic that has little to do with the crossover of which it claims to be a part of, having pretty much nothing of importance occurring within its pages.

Grade: C-

-Alex Evans