by Matthew Sturges & Bill Willingham (writers), Russ Braun (pencils), Jose Marzan Jr. & Andrew Pepoy (inks), Daniel Vozzo (colors), and Todd Klein (letters)

The Story: Jack Frost gets his first real quest as a hero for hire, while Jack Horner just keeps getting fatter.

What’s Good: Well, this month wasn’t quite the tranquilizer that last month’s once.  Though I still miss Jack Horner, Jack Frost’s adventure may not be a complete disaster of mediocrity and boredom.  This month, he begins to show some actual character I can latch onto, sporting unlimited and naive optimism.   I hope that this optimism is explored a further, even if it means a darker direction.

What really keeps the character afloat, however, is his relationship with the wooden owl Macduff, who is actually turning into a decent character.  Inexplicably knowledgeable, well-spoken, and yet somehow socially inept, he is a fairly enjoyable read and some of his dialogue with Frost shows some solid synergy.  In particular, an early conversation regarding Macduff’s name straddles the line between intelligence and pointlessness in a manner that borders on Seinfeld-esque.

On art, Russ Braun basically delivers more of exactly what we expect from him: solid detail and a firm sense of comedy.  I still agree with Jack though – much of Braun’s greatest assets rest in his being a more restrained Tony Akins.

The best scene of the book though, is far and away that which features the now obese Jack Horner and his “little buddy” Gary.  Jack and Gary’s relationship remains weirdly adorable and fat Jack is laugh-worthy on sight alone.  Jack’s dialogue regarding his new eating habits and his new sense of fiscal responsibility are both absolutely hilarious, representative of the sort of ludicrous nonsense that marks the character at his best.

What’s Not So Good: And therein lies the problem of the book: the best scene of it involves the old main character in a scene which feels completely and utterly divorced from the rest of the issue.  The 17 pages of Jack Frost/Macduff, while not bad, pale in comparison to the 5 featuring Jack Horner.  Frost’s tale does have a naive and cutesy charm, but it simply lacks the spark and vitality of Horner and Gary.

A key part of this, I think, is that Jack Frost’s tale just isn’t all that special.  Frost is still the typical young man out to prove himself, with a quirky sidekick and, now, a bland damsel in distress.  Essentially, Sturges and Willingham are just writing a standard fairytale.  Fables’ premise was to transplant fairytales into a modern setting with fresh takes on old characters, but here, we have a straight-up fairytale being written with your average fairytale characters and setting.  As a result, it just doesn’t feel particularly special.

I’ve also got to punish this issue for what can only be described as flagrant misinformation.  The solicitation for the comic and its cover would have you believe that the focus of the book is on Jack Horner’s battle with artist Russ Braun.  Indeed, the solicitation text doesn’t even mention Jack Frost.  The reality is that Horner appears in all of five pages, with said conflict only barely being referenced.  It’s clear that DC, aware of a potential sales drop with the shift in focus, direction, and tone, have decided to distort the facts in an attempt to stave off losses for at least another month.

Conclusion: It’s a touch better than last month, but this is still somewhat bland.

Grade: C+

-Alex Evans

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