Graphic Novel Review: Jack of Fables: The End

(Titan Books, �14.99)

JACK of Fables is the legendary hero from our fairy tales, the same character who enjoyed adventures as Jack Horner, Jack Be Nimble and Jack O’Lantern. A morally ambiguous womaniser and trickster always looking for his next get-rich-quick scheme, Jack is virtually immortal thanks to his popularity amongst the normal “Mundy” population, who believe him to be nothing more than legend.

A cynical, hard-edged fantasy with a knowing wink and a nudge, JoF is full of in-jokes and self-parody, but never forgets the need for drama and characterisation, and has succeeded in offering a more irreverent and satirical style of storytelling than its parent book Fables.

There’s a great deal of abstract metafiction, with the characters constantly breaking the fourth wall and displaying an awareness of their role within the narrative, and that tradition continues in this concluding volume, which serves to wrap up plotlines and character arcs stretching back over 50 issues.

The creators claim they have told all the stories they wanted to with Jack, and this Shakespeare-inspired conclusion was always an inevitability – read it for yourself and judge whether you could imagine it ending any other way?


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Protagonists from throughout the series, including feisty librarians the Page sisters, Raven the trickster, the Walrus and the Carpenter and Oz’s Lion and Tinman, find themselves drawn back into proceedings, with their destinies set to reach their conclusions in a final encounter with Jack…

The last few volumes have largely focused on Jack Horner’s son Jack Frost, after the title character was magically transformed into a dragon and went into a self-imposed exile to guard his hoard of treasure. Frost, aided by his companion MacDuff the owl, has been striving to acquire heroic status through various dangerous campaigns, and we find him here years down the line, close to retirement but determined to complete one last mission – to slay the dragon he does not realise is his own estranged father.

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This finale is typical of thematic structure of the entire run, which differs from the main Fables book by having its characters fulfilling their fictional roles rather than striving for any sort of independence.

Jack Horner was always a very unlikeable lead, being an arrogant womaniser who would always act in his own self-interest instead of helping others, but that was part of his charm, and it was difficult not to root for him despite his flaws. Removing Horner from his own title for a sustained length of time was a creative gamble by writers Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges, but that was part of their overall game-plan for the series.

And so we reach the end, and a fitting conclusion to an offbeat book which did remarkably well to survive as long as it did. Jack’s tale has come full circle, and you can be sure that whereas his title book will no longer be published, the adventures of the original giant killer will resonate long after its demise.

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