Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges, Mark Buckignham, et al,
Fables: The Great Fables Crossover
(Vertigo, 2009)

The Great Fables Crossover takes place entirely within the Fables universe, pulling together characters and plot threads from the Fables, Jack of Fables and The Literals series. The plot finds exiled Jack Horner dragging the other Fables into a fight against Kevin Thorn -- once a journalist, but now revealed as a powerful Literal (as in literary concept) bent on undoing the universe that he created. Throw in a few more Literals; Jack's son Jack Frost, newly into his full powers and in search of his miscreant father; and the further blossoming of the cult of Boy Blue and trouble naturally ensues.

Spanning nine issues -- three from each series -- the action alternates between Snow White, Bigby Wolf and a handful of Literals as they prepare to battle Thorn and his minions, the Genres; Thorn's abortive efforts to destroy his creation and begin anew; Jack's sleazy efforts to ingratiate himself at the Farm; and Jack Frost's quest to find Jack Sr. There's cross-country road trips, entrenched battle, magic and even a little deus ex machina thrown in for good measure. When all's said and done, the universe ends up largely unchanged, and safe and sound -- well, safe from the Literals, at least.

Regular readers of Fables who have not picked up the Jack of Fables series will definitely struggle to sort out the cast of Literals and puzzle over Kevin Thorn's seemingly abrupt elevation to God-like status. While readers get some background as Snow and Bigby are brought up to date by Jack, knowledge of prior events would definitely enhance enjoyment of the crossover. That said, the story itself falls flat by comparison to the high bar set in the original Fables series. A little of Jack Horner goes a very long way, and he overstays his welcome not only at the Farm, but on the page. Plus, someone really needs to give Rose Red a kick in the rear (and a bath) so she becomes an active character again, instead of hiding in her bed, feeling sorry for herself. It's difficult to get enthused about any of the Literals, since they do relatively little (aside from the Page sisters' abundance of firepower). And as for Kevin Thorn . . . well, he was more interesting as a nosy reporter, truth be told.

Those expecting a continuation of the main Fables storyline will be frustrated. Mr. Dark makes just a passing appearance, and there's no forward motion regarding his destruction of Fabletown, although his influence is briefly felt as far as the Farm, causing tempers to flare higher than normal. Plus, just how dangerous can Mr. Dark be when compared to someone who can erase all known existence with a pen stroke. . . ?

The Great Fables Crossover is mildly entertaining, a diversion from the larger Fables' story, but best enjoyed by enthusiasts who have read the related series.

Vertigo can be found online here.
Bill Willingham's official site is here.
Sturgesia is Matthew Sturges' official blog.