World Comic Book Review

12th April 2024

Jack of Fables, The Big Book of War (revisited)—“Babes with big guns keep books safe!”

Writer: Matthew Sturges, Bill Willingham

Artists: Tony Aikens and team

Vertigo Comics, 2009

GO GIRL AND DO WHAT YOU DO BEST! Such an exclamation appears to be the basis of Jack’s appeal; he let’s you do your thing your own way. Anarchy and agency go together. Jack in charge feels like freedom for a minute. Just do your best, and bring back tacos.



This is how the story starts in The Big Book of War, a five-issue storyline (#28-32) with Jack in command of an army of fables fighting other fables. I just filled in my missing numbers and get the whole story for the first time. Jack pushes himself up front and becomes a general. How things manage to turn out all right in the face of giant odds is one of the mysteries of Jack’s unvirtuous life, as it is for the philosophy of anarchic laissez-faire, which he seems to represent.

Plain neglect and charlatanry lets the weak perish, and permits venturous idiots of all stripes to converge as they will to govern us. Yet here we are. Sad to say, we know Jack too well.



Fabled Jack is not the same as Tom and Harry’s Dick, but the idea is similar: Jack is everyone else, especially that other guy who took your dame or your job and made a fortune, though clearly he’s a fool and a lout to boot. Hope someone wakes up, you say, to see the true criminal, but of course they never do, or do much too late for anyone to care even you as the world moves on, impoverished by the additional burden of catastrophe upon catastrophe stacked up like a debt for the people who remain to clean up and restore what was plundered or wasted, while Jack is long gone running with his sidekick and only friend, a dopey little ancient guy called the Pathetic Fallacy, whose name summarizes my point. Only the power of flim-flam gets Jack through many jams. His added value is not easy to specify, yet may exist, so let’s keep him alive a while everyone says. Some cheer.

To say Jack has charm or some aspect of charm like a quirky smile or a redeeming niceness makes me want to gag: the same reaction the three Page-sister librarians have toward most things Jack-ish. Like them, I can’t say why I continue to hang with Jack, maybe for the fun and taco parties.

I think I first saw the Page sisters a little later in the Great Fables Crossover when they were pinned down on the way to a final confrontation, guns blazing on the side of the road. At the time it seemed like extraordinary circumstances. They’re librarians after all. Now I see in the war here against Bookburner they are simply babes with big guns, librarians with their hair down, made to be clichés all along.



I don’t have to rely on the babes to like Jack. Just like anarchy, he doesn’t intend to hurt anyone. We watch the bad boy test rules and burn a trail, maybe find a new way to think and do be do be do, baby. He’s a character in the larger Fables drama with fascinating turns, including delightful page-long interludes with Babe the Blue Ox that I am happy to find again. He stayed here with Jack! In all, they make a diverse busload of stars who maybe never die, just go away for a while, like Revise in the end who apparently gives up bowdlerizing fables as actually occurred in the early nineteenth century with a guy named Bowdler, to leave us the raw originals instead, like it or not.

The truth is, I may be on Jack’s side here. I don’t want to see him erased, or even tamed. Just take the hit, stay diverse, and cheer. Everything is going to turn out all right. Right?