Great Fables Crossover: Fables goes even more meta, stays just as rollicking

I just finished Fables Vol. 13: The Great Fables Crossover, the latest collection in Bill Willingham's superb Fables series. This is an incredibly complicated, long-running story in which all the fables of every time and land have been chased from their dimensions by a dark power, and have gone into hiding in NYC, where a final battle is brewing.

The last Fables volume, War and Pieces, had enough finality in it that I erroneously believed it to be the end of the series -- for one thing, I couldn't imagine what else could come to top it. I was bemused to discover that the series was only half-done, and that the real action was only getting started.

Crossover marks a transition to a different kind of second act for the storyline, I think. As the title suggests, the story is a crossover between the main Fables serial and one of the spinoffs, Jack of Fables (which depicts the many adventures of the roguish Jack of Beanstalk fame).

In Crossover, the Literals (literal embodiments of philosophical and literary ideals, such as the Pathetic Fallacy and a trio of beautiful, ass-kicking embodiments of librarianship) suck the Fables into a new kind of fight -- a fight against the Writer, himself a Literal, bent on rewriting reality and making a better one, in order to rein in the characters and situations who've run away from him.

As with previous volumes, it's whacking great fun, as well as being an education in the ways of storytelling and a philosophical rumination on the nature of belief, reality, and the power of stories. Willingham's humor and scenarios grow more meta with each installment, but somehow, it never degenerates into a mere exercise -- Fables is always, first and foremost, a wonderful story.

Fables Vol. 13: The Great Fables Crossover

List of all Fables collections

Free download of Fables 1