Writer/Artist: Paul Grist
First published in short, monthly instalments in British comics journal Comics International during 2006, this bumper-sized Jack Staff adventure (well, Q adventure really; Jack appears only briefly) brings to mind the big summer specials often seen during the British comic industry's heyday, which is only appropriate given the title's nostalgic origins.
Sadly, the story has been somewhat undermined by the format. Although the issue's events do tie in, in a rather important way, to the cosmic conflict between the Red and the Green we've glimpsed in the main title, for the most part it's an unconnected tale. Furthermore, there's a definite sense that Paul Grist's plans changed at least once during the original monthly publication, resulting in a simpler plot quite unlike the cleverly constructed storylines of the main title; while the narrative flows quite nicely, it is more or less a basic adventure tale and doesn't have that essential Gristian pre-planned complexity that sets the regular title apart from its superheroic peers.
All that said, while basic, it is a good fun adventure, with a distinctly British Quatermass/Doctor Who feel, and the story is never less than entertaining. We're introduced to some interesting new characters, including the eccentric and Quatermainesque Sommerset Stone, who I hope to see more of in the future, and there are some ominous revelations about the mysterious Q agency and their activities. So there is definitely plenty here for the Jack Staff fan to enjoy.
The art has more than the usual sense of the nostalgic to it, as Grist returns to the black and white style of Jack's earlier self-published days. Although the colour has gone, Grist's mastery of comics storytelling is still very much in effect, making use of some very inventive and dramatic techniques that nonetheless convey the story with a simple clarity. There are a couple of shaky panels here and there that suggest a rush to keep up with deadlines, but on the whole this is another very strong piece of work from one of comics' most underrated visual storytellers.
To be honest, I must admit to being a little disappointed with this comic. It doesn't display that assured mastery of plotting and storytelling that makes the average issue of the main title such a joy to read, but I have to temper that disappointment, as this is still a solid and entertaining adventure, and it's merely in comparison with the mighty main title that this looks so anaemic.
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