Comics Features

REVIEW: Spring Heeled Jack #1

Written by Scott Meridew

Ripped right from the pages of the old Penny Dreadful’s, Spring Heeled Jack is a dark, gothic story with great art and an interesting premise. I may have a few nitpicks here and there but on the whole, it’s entertaining, unique, and well worth a read. Let’s take a look, shall we?

In late 19th century London, two women are attacked in their home by Spring Heeled Jack, a malevolent being with red eyes and pointed teeth who can leap over tall buildings and breath fire. He brutally kills one and sets fire to the house, burning the other. Later, the police decide to call in someone they think can help, a master of deduction and mystery known only as… Arthur Conan Doyle. Wait, what? Arthur Conan Doyle, the writer? Creator of Sherlock Holmes? He’s in this comic? As a main character? Oooooookaaaaaaay. Don’t misunderstand me, this isn’t a BAD idea. Just… really? This is like William Shakespeare turning up to help the Queen stop two teenagers from committing suicide. I find it a bit far fetched! And no, I don’t find the idea of a man who can breath fire far fetched, which says a lot about me.

In order to solve the case, Arthur enlists the help of his mentor… Joseph Bell? What the hell is going on here? For those of you who don’t know, Joseph Bell was the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. He was a pioneer of forensic pathology, was incredibly observant and often assisted the police in their investigations. And in this comic, he basically acts like Sherlock Holmes. And Arthur Conan Doyle seems to be filling the role of Watson. Which begs the question… why didn’t they just make Bell and Doyle Homes and Watson instead? Sherlock Holmes is in the public domain after all. Anyone can use the characters! Maybe the writer (Tony Deans) wanted to do something different? If that’s the case then good for him, I suppose. Like I said, this isn’t a bad idea. Just… odd.

Anyway, Bell is naturally sceptical that Spring Heeled Jack is real but believes that there is a person killing people. Bell deduces that he is targeting women specifically, a fact that is confirmed when Jack confronts two women in a dark deserted alley. One of them shoots Jack dead centre… to no avail. Dun dun duuuuuuuuuuuun!

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Okay, story! Interesting! The idea of a vicious murderer stalking the women of London is nothing new, but I really like the inclusion of supernatural elements. Spring Heeled Jack is by no means human. He’s like if Dracula and Jack the Ripper had a baby together. A very creepy baby. I also like how the story paces itself. It’s not all action, all the time. There’s a lot of calm moments, like when Bell and Doyle are discussing the case, and there’s a lot of tense moments such as the beginning and end when Jack confronts his prey. It gives the story a unique feel and helps it flow nicely. No doubt there will be some action-y (What? It’s a word!) bits later in the series as Bell and Doyle catch up to Jack, but I still think this is a nice introduction.

Next up, character! Like I said earlier, Bell and Doyle are essentially Holmes and Watson. Change the names and you wouldn’t know the difference. I honestly don’t mind them being in the story but if they wanted to use Holmes and Watson then they should have just used Holmes and Watson! Or maybe even create original characters! That’s something I’d like to see! So, not a criticism necessarily, as the characters are well written, just a nitpick. Nothing to lose sleep over.

Now for my favourite bit. The art. This comic was illustrated by Martha Laverick and I have to say, I love what I’m seeing. I’m usually more story focused than art, but this is definitely worth talking about. The use of shadows when Spring Heeled Jack is around are excellent and add multitudes to the atmosphere of the comic. Not to mention, it makes the blood that has been shed stand out all the more! Plus, the angles used are engaging as hell. Look at me. I’m talking about angles, ANGLES, in a comic. But they’re just so good! Framing each and every panel perfectly. It’s practically cinematic!

Also, it seems like the background colours are different for each scene. It’s like each new location has it’s own scene, it’s own MOOD even. I really like it! The character designs are great too. It’s one of those cases where they seem to walk the line between cartoon-y and realistic, which I especially love in a comic. Were I a teacher in Primary school, I’d give the artist a gold star AND a smiley face! Oh yeah! This is gold star and smiley face quality, people!

So… would I recommend this comic? Uh, YEAH! It’s an interesting, well drawn, atmospheric comic that deserves your attention. It comes out on November the 12th and it’s part of a four issue mini-series so you’ve got no excuse not to read it all the way through! That’s your homework for this week kids! I might be getting into the whole teacher thing a bit too much.
But what do YOU think of Spring Heeled Jack? Is it a vicious Victorian victory or a pretty disgusting Penny Dreadful? Tell us in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter! Meanwhile, I’m going to satisfy my all consuming need to criticise bad comics by looking though my old arch-nemesis, DC’s back catalogue. Let’s see… ooooooh! What’s this? Batman #147! “Bat-Baby”? Oh, this is gonna be good! Mwa ha ha ha!

About the author

Scott Meridew