"Jack of Fables" launched some years ago as a spinoff centred around Jack Horner, the Jack in numerous fictional stories (the giant-killer, the beanstalk-climber, etc.), who had been a regular in the "Fables" ongoing series as a self-centered, amoral jerk. Given his own series, which was markedly more comic than its predecessor, he soon found himself in the middle of a vast new area of the Fables mythology involving meta-concepts such as the Literals. The "Great Fables Crossover" storyline resolved the main ongoing arc of the series with the Literals (apart from Gary, the Pathetic Fallacy, Jack's sidekick), and brought into play Jack's son by the Snow Queen, also called Jack. With the crossover out of the way, writers Matthew Sturges and Bill Willingham take an arc to dramatically reorient the series, in what I would provisionally call an improvement. Spoilers follow.
There are four issues collected here, the first of which is a standalone story about one of Jack Horner's adventures in the past: in this case, finding himself in darkest Africa in the late 19th century, in the company of a variety of ape and monkey Fables beasts. This issue is gently amusing, but there's not a whole lot to it, apart from the final in-joke about how all these stories later, in garbled form, became the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Enjoyable, but not remotely groundbreaking or memorable, even for what it is.
The final three issues, on the other hand, form the main body of the story, and are much better. The story is split between Jack Horner and Gary, who while wandering find that Jack is undergoing a major transformation, and Jack the younger (briefly Jack Frost, but he renounces those powers as a rejection of his evil mother's legeacy), who decides to try and redeem his jerkish family legacy by becoming a genuine hero. Jack Sr.'s story is essentially a grand karmic comeuppance, as his millennia of bad behaviour finally comes back to bite him, writing him out of the series (for now, anyway). Jack Jr., by contrast, comes across Gepetto's wooden owl, and goes about on his first case as a hero for hire (though he doesn't really charge anything, which makes paying the bills difficult; someone really should get this kid a Puss in Boots). The adventure itself is fairly unremarkable as a plot, but the younger Jack is a refreshing new lead character, and one can tell that the writers, Matthew Sturges and Bill Willingham, are enjoying the contrast between his idealism and the outright narcissism of Jack Horner. His banter with the wooden owl MacDuff is quite nicely handled.
As far as new directions go, this volume establishes a promising one, and I look forward to the further adventures of Jack the hero, which could go in many interesting directions (including, perhaps, encounters with his parents). Recommended.