Friday, September 07, 2012

Jack Staff - Everything Used to be Black and White

Now that we've stopped letting Jim monopolize the return from our collective vacation, I figured I'd start with something positive.  I've been hearing good things about Paul Grist's Jack Staff for quite some time, so I seized the opportunity to get a trade of the original run of the comic while it was on sale.  A better spent $10 is hard to find, at least outside of a strip club.

Not that this is news to a lot of people.  Grist has been doing Jack Staff for a long time.  Even this trade was originally published in 2004.  In fact, Grist is working on Mudman these days, which has its own trade of its opening arc.

Still, it was new reading to me.  And excellent reading it was.  It probably doesn't hurt to be familiar with the history of British superheroes from days gone by, but it's not necessary, either.  A lot of the characters in the books are drawn from old characters not well known outside Britain, but Grist does such a good job with them it's unnecessary to know about them outside the context of Jack Staff.

Jack was a superhero during WWII.  Sometime after the war he disappeared.  Twenty years later he returned, young as ever.  That's where these stories pickup.  Jack's somewhat reluctant in his role of hero, but he does it all the same, working around his day job as a contractor.  It's not clear what Jack's powers are, but they seem to largely be of speed and strength focused through the staff he carries.

The other main character is Becky Burdock, intrepid reporter for a low end tabloid.  She seizes on Jack's return and doesn't take too long to track down his civilian identity.  She's the anti-Lois Lane, being far smarter but stuck in a lesser publication.  She also ends up turned into a vampire fairly shorlty into things.  That doesn't change her much.  She's still a reporter and still giving Jack a hard time.

The villains range interestingly from a former ally of Jack's during the war (who turns Becky into a vampire) to a retired adversary from those days who's still one up on Jack quite often.  Grist also throws in a very different alien who originates outside time but becomes trapped in time. 

Grist's art is often described as minimalist, and it is.  It's also sort of Steam Punk in how it harkens to the past.  Perspective is creative and panel layout inventive.  Grist does a lot without a jot of color.

Narratively, Grist isn't afraid to just lay out some background with a page of text if it's necessary.  Saves a lot on unnecessary exposition by the characters.

There are several more volumes of trades collecting Jack Staff stories, and now that I'm bitten, I'll have to hunt those down, too.  Looking forward to more sales to help move that along.

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