Jack 1979 has a great deal of energy. It possesses a manic, manga-inspired art work that is very appealing and some of the panels explode with energy. It’s a pity that the premise itself is so distasteful.
Many fine pieces of literature and comics have been written about Jack the Ripper. Alan Moore’s From Hell was a thoughtful and thought-provoking example. However From Hell attempted to strip away the myth and explore the reality of Jack The Ripper. Jack 1979 instead chooses to lionize him.
Essentially, this tale of Jack The Ripper casts him in the role of heroic demon-hunter and all-round nice guy. He rids the world of monsters, he feeds orphans, he’s a charmer with women. All good and well if he was an original character.
But he is based on an actual serial killer. A man who killed and mutilated woman. There are many other historical figures who could have been used in his stead. The choice to use a serial killer as the comic book’s main protagonist is a poor one. Perhaps this could start a trend. John Gacy vs Child Zombies could be a graphic novel.
The comic opens with Jack being transported into the world of 1979. Events then cut back to 1888. Jack is tormented by the public’s misconception of him as a monster. Despite this, he continues the hunt and goes out to confront a prostitute/monster. The conflict ends up with the woman dead. As she is merely a host, the monster moves on.
One could make a case this comic is trying to link female sexuality and the demonic. But I for one truly don’t read it as such. If anything, there is a compassion shown towards the female host. The single tender panel in which Jack cradles her corpse is one of the comic’s most touching moments.
And one of its most jarring as well. Let me remind you that while the identity of Jack The Ripper remains a mystery, he killed and mutilated real people. Not monsters. He was not a compassionate, misunderstood hero. He was a real-life predator with a deep hatred for street women.
Jon Paul Hart knows how to pace a comic. Jack 1979 opens strongly before jumping into a flashback. The reader is drawn into the story; it never gets dull.
The dialogue is competent but simplistic. It follows the checklist of creating a badass yet sympathetic vigilante. Jack is tormented by the path he has to follow, Jack still chooses to fulfill his duty, Jack apologizes to the prostitute’s corpse, Jack is pursued by the police, Jack is shown as an all-round good guy when he gives a street urchin food.
Combined with the clean-cut art, this reads like a comic aimed at a fairly young audience. There is some minor bad language but the lack of real violence or sex in the comic seems to confirm that this comic might be not be restricted to mature readers. This is deeply worrying as young teens should not be exposed to the idea that a historical serial killer is a hero.
To be fair, I don’t believe that the writer had any ill intent. The decision to use Jack The Ripper as the protagonist smacks of poor choice rather than any deeper agenda. There is a kind of bouncy charm to the entire comic, enhanced considerably by Dave Siddal’s pencils.
The artwork is one of the book’s strong points. Dave Siddal’s line work is very clean and a visual treat. His panels are minimalistic – all superfluous details have been removed.. The characters are highly stylized. In many ways, the artwork reminded me of Bruce Timm’s work on the Batman Animated comics. Actions scenes are dynamic and uncluttered, reminiscent of manga. Expressions are a weak point but mainly because they’re are limited by the style.
Unfortunately, the review copy we received featured what appeared to be unfinished artwork. The book could definitely work as black and white. Once the final black inks are applied and there’s been some minor clean up, the artwork will be both striking and bold.
This book reminded me of The Batman Adventures comic. It comes across as a Saturday morning cartoon in comic book format. The plot is straight forward, the action nicely paced, the art style engaging.
I truly wanted to like this book. Its simplicity and lack of pretension makes it very appealing. The lack of real violence gives it an innocent air that stands out in today’s comic book market. But again, the premise kept intruding on my enjoyment.
Backed by a great team, Jack 1979 is of a solid professional quality. I will continue to follow the careers of those involved and hope they find a project more worthy of their talents.