Friday, April 08, 2005


Jack Staff: Soldiers

Jack Staff: Soldiers (Volume two)
Story and art: Paul Grist

I came to Jack Staff through a sort of weird route. I’d heard good things about it somewhere, so when I found issue 11 in a dollar bin I picked it up. The fact that the cover looked cool helped too. I thought it was amazing, so when I found issue 1 of the Image series I was pretty excited. It was similarly awesome. I was hooked.

Last year when volume one collection the full twelve issues of the black and white series came out I got it. It was so good. Then I saw that the first volume of the colour series had come out, so I got that too. It was similarly excellent.

Jack Staff was Britain’s greatest hero. Twenty years ago. Then he disappeared. The first volume of Jack Staff tells the story of Jack Staff coming out of retirement, Soldier’s is the story of why he entered retirement. The story jumps back and forth between twenty years ago and the presen, not revealing what happened until the two plots dovetail. The past tells the story of Hurricane (the ultimate military weapon) attacking Castletown and Jack Staff, while the present tells the story of mysterious rage attacks that are becoming more and more prevalent.

Like the previous volume of Jack Staff this one switches between many different characters, given each of them a new introductory splash every time they appear. The comic is thus set out somewhat like an anthology with stories about Jack Staff, Tom Tom the Robot Man, Q (the investigators of the unexplainable), Becky Burdock Vampire Reporter, Detective Inspector Maveryk, and others. The stories all intertwine and while some of the characters may never meet, they’re actions will effect what happens to the other characters.

Grist often uses versions of characters from old British adventure comics. I’m usually not sure what’s new and what’s old in Jack Staff so I was incredibly excited when I saw the first reference to old British comics that I actually got. General Tubbs is an homage to General Jumbo who appeared in the Beano. General Jumbo was a young boy who controlled an army of remote control planes, tanks, soldiers and ships. He controls them through a wrist mounted device (basically a Power Glove) fought other kids with similar robots and had numerous adventures. Both Alan Moore and Grant Morrison have used versions of him in their stories over the years. I always thought that the character was pretty awesome, and Grist just takes the premise and twists it, making it even better.

Grist’s art is really amazing too, he uses a style I find sort of hard to describe. It is not, however, a style usually used in super hero comics, which is part of what makes it so distinct. However in addition to the art style there is the way in which Grist lays out pages that works really well. Grist uses splash pages, white space and minimalism all to great effect during the course of this collection and it’s just amazing the skill and talent which he holds. This volume is coloured by Phil Elliott and the colouring makes this comic look, amazingly, even better then it did in black and white. I didn’t think Grist could make the art look any better but somehow he did.

One of my friend’s who just read this comic was similarly enthusiastic about it and said that the existence of comics like Jack Staff sort of scares him away from drawing his comics because he doesn’t think they can live up to the quality. (I’m going to encourage him to make his own comics though.)

Jack Staff volume one was on my best of the year for 2004, Jack Staff volume two will be on my best of the year for 2005 (yeah, okay, so it came out in 2004, whatever). It’s a truly excellent and original comic that is just so much fun at the same time. Check it out.

Links: General Jumbo Site about Paul Grist and his work


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