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


  1. I didn’t like the crossover that much. It was really more Jack of Fables than Fables and Jack of Fables is quite a bit more campy than the main book. All and all I see it as Fables journeying into Jacks book than the other way because it didn’t really affect the Fables story a great deal, I mean all the Fables characters forgot it after it ended…

    Luckily the main story line picks right back up after the crossover without missing a beat.

  2. I’m being cautiously optimistic for the ABC TV series…against my better judgment. However, this is another of the very few comic series I still follow religiously.


  3. No matter how I try to get away from comic books I keep getting dragged back in! I guess it’s time to start reading Fables after all.

    hehe thanks Cory. You are the devil but I luv ya for it.

  4. I’m so glad you posted about this series…the review was intriguing and I ended up getting hooked on this series, thank you!!!

  5. It’s taken me time and money to discover that I find Cory’s reviews to be always off for me.
    His tastes run in the same areas, but having tried quite a few of his recommendations, including Jack Of Fables, I find most of his picks mediocre according to my tastes.

  6. This reminds me of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next novels, which use characters from literature. Very good books!

  7. I’ve stalled after the 2nd volume … but not thanks to Cory. Thank the very cute guy at the comic book store down the block from my apartment. He also recommended Rex Mundi, which I was meh about. Oh well. Things people do for a pretty smile, alas.

  8. Fans, what say you? Must I read all of Fables to enjoy the Crossover series? The Literals story line sounds way interesting to me, and I’m not sure I’m ready to start from Book 1.

    1. RevelryByNight:
      If the Literals are the bit that sounds interesting to you then you don’t need to read all, or really any, of the 12 books or so of Fables. The Literals plotline belongs almost entirely to Jack. You pretty much do need to read all 6 books of the ‘Jack of Fables’ spinoff, though, as the crossover is a big end-of-plotline resolution for his stuff.
      Without having read Fables there’ll be a few things, some references, and a couple of characters that you won’t get, but (in Jack’s storyline) these things are mostly minor references.

      Having said that, I’d recommend almost the exact opposite, in that I find Fables by far the more enjoyable series. The clever meta-story is every bit as good as Cory says. But Jack (in Jack) is such an annoying $#!@, and so central, that his camp tone drags away my ability to care what happens. The crossover is great, but I’m glad it’s over; I didn’t want Jack to drag Fables down.

      I’ve expounded on this before, at length, so I’ll stop there.

  9. Have not read this at all, but the premise made me think of one of my favorite books of all time: Silverlock by John Myers Myers – a story based in the CommonWealth of Letters – a land populated by characters from the canon of classic lit and myth.

  10. I also just finished Crossover a couple weeks ago. I read all 13 books straight after my brother gave them to me.

    Frankly, I was pretty much let down by the two books after the battle with the adversary was over. Nothing seemed as important, even though the next two bad guys were/are supposedly so much worse — they just seemed cartoony. I thought Crossover in particular wasn’t anywhere up to the old standards. Everything was just so much more… silly. My least favorite book of the bunch.

    Of course, if I had actually been reading the original comics, and it had taken me six years to get through the battle against the adversary, I might have thought different about a few months into camp and silliness.

    1. I’m only as far as finishing Animal Farm, and I like it, but I guess now I know that there’s a battle with the Adversary and he (or she) gets taken out of the picture. Awesome.

  11. I think Fables could have done without the Crossover. Jack is a trouble maker within the series and for the series.

    If you want a great Fables read, pick up “Peter & Max,” a novel full of great characters and elegant storytelling.

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