Comics has been slowly building a reputation for rescuing
older or smaller company comic properties from cancellation,
many of them finding new life in trade paperback form. (Dark
Horse is doing similar things, more so than Image in fact,
focusing more on the Indies and small press,) One title that
has found new life in the US is Jack Staff.
published in Britain by Dancing Elephant Press, Jack Staff
is written and drawn by Paul Grist. Image puts it out as a
monthly, so when I went searching for a collection of "Britain's
Greatest Hero," I ended up with the original trade from
is pretty straight forward (at first): Becky Burdock, Girl
Reporter for a British tabloid is investigating the disappearance
of Jack Staff, Britain's Greatest Hero, who after fighting
in World War II and making a brief resurgence in 1976, disappeared.
People seem to have forgotten their once beloved hero. Becky's
life is saved one day by a construction worker (the oh-so-cleverly-named
John Smith) from falling debris, and gets it in her head that
he may know something about the topic of her story. She isn't
female corpses are being found around Castletown, with broken
necks, bodies drained of blood and sporting some lovely bite
marks in the neck region. The Castletown Slasher, as the newspapers
have dubbed him, may be a foe from Jack's past, so the rebar
wielding vigilante reappears just in time to be found standing
over the dead body of the Slasher's latest victim.
the classic tradition, another superhero (from today's generation,
possessing no idea of who the Hell Jack Staff is) happens
by and starts a rather nasty tussle. Luckily, the police intervene
before Tom Tom the Robot Man (you wish I'd made that up) can
whomp on Jack too much, and Jack is taken into custody.
has to find the fiend from his past and put a stop to his
murderous rampage, but some unexpected interference from the
US Army and a surprise from his World War II days will make
book is either parody (as I mentioned, Tom Tom the Robot Man)
or homage to many of Marvel's classic characters. Jack Staff
is a nod to Union Jack, (yet I never remember caring about
Union Jack the way I do about Jack Staff, so kudos to Grist
for making a bad character seem interesting); Sgt. States
is the Captain America clone. There are parallels for the
Human Torch, Iron Man, and even Blade in this book.
in doing this type of book is ending up with a Rob Leifeld
Fighting American (please just die, Leifeld, and save future
generations from your bad art and non-existent storytelling).*
Grist doesn't fall into that category; he manages to juggle
a large cast of characters well. He keeps the characters familiar
by using their Marvel prototypes, but keeps it different.
(Grist's explanation of why Sgt. States is still around forty
years after the war makes infinitely more sense than "Uhm
was frozen.") There's also about five or six plot twists
that keep the reader from getting bored, not to mention Grist's
penchant for doing flashbacks between the present conflict
and Jack's first encounter with the Castletown Slasher in
problems arise from Grist's bad pacing and sometimes-jerky
storytelling. While I mentioned the flashbacks to 1940 above
as beneficial to the comic, Grist uses the device too much.
He actually flashes back during the present story to events
that just happened, and all this is done without warning (I'm
reminded of one scene where Jack is fighting off the Slasher
with his trusty pole, then I turn the page and he's in a roadster
with Sgt. States, racing down a highway, and then it switches
what the #@$%?).
also the problem of how Jack, who is in fact the same Jack
from 1940, has stayed so young and virile for the last half-decade.
I assume the answer comes in a later volume.
seeing Grist's art on the pamphlet style Image Comics, I find
that I like it better colored. This edition's black and white
scheme creates great atmosphere for the scenes with the Slasher
(and the occasional spelunking adventure), but the characters
are sometimes crude looking with only ink to flesh them out.
Color would do them more justice and give the book a little
kick (and not just in price).
it's a pretty good read that could be better served by some
re-editing on Grist's part. It is a little pricey though:
$15.95 for four black and white single issues might scare
a few people off, but it's worth a read if you have the extra
cash lying around. And hey, if you're British, it's only 8.95
#'s (my computer doesn't make that squiggly thing they use
for "pounds" so, uhm
. bugger off).
opinions expressed by Rob Sparling are his alone and not a
reflection of the editorial staff at Fanboy Planet. For instance,
we believe that Rob Liefeld is welcome to live a long and
happy life, as long as his online comic strip "Shrink"
never gets made into a movie by Jennifer Lopez. And even then,
we're likely to take our own lives first.
rather Liefeld live with the guilt. Or just bugger off.
there's no Amazon link because they don't carry the book.
Sorry. But it's worth asking your dealer.
This disclaimer has gotten out of hand.