Writer/Artist: Paul Grist
Publisher: Image Comics
Jack Staff is Britainís Greatest Hero (or so he claims) and self-appointed protector of Castletown, England. Jack does battle with the hulking behemoth Hurricane, a government experiment gone slightly awry. Meanwhile, a gathering of heroes and law enforcement settle in for a nice spot of tea and biscuits.
Jack Staff is the possibly the most clever, unique and innovative comic on the shelves; itís definitely worth your three bucks. OK, not the best opening Iíve ever written, but I thought Iíd get that out of the way for all you folks whoíve come to know my abuse of the English language and would prefer to stop reading right now. For those still with me, Jack Staff is the invention of Paul Grist, a UK writer/artist of some minor talent. Jack Staff was previously published as a b&w, small press comic book (up to issue eleven, I believe). But this new colour version begins fresh; you wonít be lost, dazed or confused (ugh, sorry). If you missed the inaugural issue last month donít worry, Grist has made the second as highly accessible as the first.
Who or what is Jack Staff? Well, thatís a bit tough to nail down. Jack himself is not the central character, and Iím honestly not sure who is. Grist has fashioned a spoof of Marvelís Avengers, TVís Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the X-Files (and probably several other pop-culture icons that I am far too square to recognize). So is Jack Staff just a spiteful attack on American entertainment by a lonely, bitter Brit? Could be. The comic is set in Castletown, England Ė a real place that actually has a medieval castle in it (I looked online, so it must be true). Regardless of your geography this is such witty, off-center stuff that it can be enjoyed from whatever context you choose.
The first issue was a series of loosely connected vignettes introducing Jack Staff, Tom-Tom the Robot Man, The Hurricane, Becky Burdock Vampire Reporter, the Q-Team and other minor characters. The events skipped about, not really adhering to any particular timeline. Issue two introduces even more characters and continues to ignore the logic of sequential storytelling Ė in a positive yet manic sort of way.
Paul Gristís art is simple and highly stylized. Thereís quite a lot of Jack Kirby in the action sequences and more than a bit of Mike Mignola in the use of black. The layouts and overall design vary greatly; some of which parody tabloid newspaper covers and British television shows as well as employing traditional comic book panel arrangements. Each turn of the page brings a new surprise. Grist embeds lots of small, humorous touches, such as Becky the Vampire Reporter drinking Tomato Juice for breakfast or the fact that Tom-Tom the Robot Man is neither robot nor man.
I guess that Iíve spent a lot of your valuable time explaining very little. Jack Staff defies categorization; you canít sum it up by way of a comparison, like JLA meets Monty Python (which itís certainly not). Jack Staff is, at heart, a superhero spoof. It is also great fun that manages to avoid the scathing angst of similar superhero satires like ďThe ProĒ, at least overtly.
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