It's taken me quite a while -- two and a half years now -— to figure out why I keep reading "Jack of Fables" even though the series has forever felt a little off to me. After all, I like Bill Willingham's writing on "Fables," and Matthew Sturges is proving on "House of Mystery" that he's a strong writer as well. Tony Akins' pencils are also nice, with just the right light-hearted look for the title. So why isn't it working?
In the end, I think it has a lot to do with the main character himself. He really works best, I think, as a supporting character who creates havoc and chaos for the main characters. He served that job quite well in his "Fables" appearances after all, and I don't think it's a coincidence that the "Jack of Fables" story I've enjoyed the most was the "Bad Jack" story where another Jack claims to be the real hero, and our Jack makes everything go hideously wrong. But reading this latest issue, all I could feel was, well, annoyed at Jack. He messes things up left and right, but without a strong heroic character at the center of the book, it just as often falls to Jack to have to save the day. It's hard to read a book where your protagonist is both king and fool simultaneously.
The sad thing is, ever since "Jack of Fables" began it's had a lot of really great ideas at its core. The Golden Boughs retirement community with its imprisoned Fables, Revise's attempts to water down and neuter the existing Fables's stories, an entire Americana land of Fables, the evil Bookburner... these are all such fantastic concepts that it's what has kept me around month after month. Willingham and Sturges are absolutely knocking the ideas out of the park, and I can't help but feel that if Jack himself wasn't in the book, I'd be absolutely loving it all. Reading what I'm assuming is the conclusion to the latest storyline, though, just brought home all the issues I have with the title. Jack himself does much more to hinder than help in the fight against Bookburner, and the deus ex machina ending has less to do with Jack himself. (I don't think it's a coincidence that the best bits of the book are the non-Jack-centric moments, like Tin Woodsman's love of all of his forgotten attachments.)
For people who don't mind reading a book where your protagonist is utterly self-centered, is forever making matters worse out of a mixture of arrogance and idiocy, and often bumbles his way through the stories, "Jack of Fables" will certainly be a bit more palatable. Like I said, the ideas are really neat here, and they've kept me reading a book for two and a half years where I really don't like the main character. But honestly, short of some massive changes in Jack himself, after the upcoming crossover with "Fables" itself, it might be time to finally bid adieu to this particular character. A little Jack goes a long way.