You may remember some time ago I reviewed the comic book Spring Heeled Jack, a dark, gothic story about Arthur Conan Doyle and Joseph Bell (The man who inspired Sherlock Holmes) teaming up to stop the mysterious Spring Heeled Jack from terrorising London. It was a pretty good comic book, with an intriguing premise, great artwork and brilliant writing (Tony Deans). And now…THE SEQUEL! By which I mean, I’m reviewing issue two. Obviously. I mean, you read the title, right?
So, issue two as good as issue one? Nope. Not even close. It’s BETTER! Not perfect, by any means. But oh so much better! I wasn’t even sure it could get better. But it did. It’s twice as engaging, twice as exciting and a genuine pleasure to read. Frankly, it makes me want to stop the article here so I won’t spoil it for you all. But I’ve got a job to do, so let’s do this thing!
Following on from the last issue, Doyle and Bell are examining the alley where Jack has killed his last two victims. There’s blood everywhere but, despite the fact that one of the women definitely shot him, none of it is his. Bell remarks that it’s a “true mystery”. And I swear, he looks like a kid on Christmas morning. Clearly he loves a good mystery. I mean, who doesn’t? I myself am currently enthralled by the mystery of why DC thinks making every superhero in their movies “gritty” (A.K.A., like Batman) is a sound strategy! But I digress.
Back at Doyle’s flat, Bell surmises that Jack isn’t a supernatural creature, but rather he uses modern (As in, Victorian) technology to appear supernatural. And this is where the artwork really comes into it’s own. As Doyle and Bell are discussing who could be a potential suspect, we can see the thought processes of Bell around him. Multiple blank faces appear. Then one blurry face. Then one that’s all red and blue, y’know, like 3-D? And finally, one clear face. That of Henry Poer, a former suspect in the Jack the Ripper case. He’s got the money and resources to be Spring Heeled Jack, plus a history of violence against women. Awww, yeah! Time to bring this guy in! ♫ Bad boys, bad boys. Whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when they come for you? ♫
Doyle and Bell go to a club to speak with Poer when they see him attack a waitress. Bell tells Doyle to not intervene… for some reason. But Artie Doyle is having none of it! He stops Poer, and when he tries to stab him, he breaks his finger. ‘Cause nobody messes with A.C.D., pillock! Back at Doyle’s flat, Bell congratulates him for stopping Poer. And again, why didn’t YOU help? I mean, I’m sure you had a good reason and all, but, y’know… TELL US! But they’re interrupted by Detective Lestrade. I mean… Detective Lestrade. I mean… Detective Lestrade. I mean… Detective Lestrade. I MEAN……… Daggert. A man that Bell has had some past dealings with who tells them that their investigation can continue, but only if they leave Poer alone. It’s one of those “friends in high places” scenarios.
Nonetheless, Bell and Doyle resolve to catch Poer in the act as Jack. They arrange for a woman to use herself as bait, rally the police and prepare to nab the bastard. But the plan goes awry, and the woman is attacked. Bell and Doyle manage to find her, only to come face to face with Jack! Once again, it’s a Dun dun dun moment. So here goes. Dun dun duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun!!!!!!! Wow. That was a big one.
Okay, lets get this show on the road. How’s the story? The premise still works, which doesn’t sound like much, but I’ve lot count of the amount of comic books that can’t sustain the premise beyond the first issue. And it feels like the story has progressed and is going to keep progressing. If there’s one thing you need in a comic book like this, it’s forward momentum. The pacing is still excellent, the flow is still great. One thing that I was looking forward to after I read the last issue was action scenes. And this issue has one, when Doyle confronts Poer. And its… serviceable. I just get the feeling like it could be just a tad more dynamic. Don’t get me wrong. It looks good! But I have very high standards and it just misses them. By like “that” much. But it was the first proper action scene they’ve done in the comic, so there’s a bit of leeway.
But what about the characters? I got a much clearer idea of the relationship between Doyle and Bell in this issue. They’ve got a whole student/teacher relationship going on. Except the student has grown up and is his own person now, so there’s a new, unbalancing element to the dynamic. Which is great! They still seem a bit like Holmes and Watson, but not as much as in the first issue. Which brings me to Daggert. He’s Lestrade, no question about it. I can get over the whole Holmes/Watson Bell/Doyle thingy, but this is too much. When you consider the fact that the original characters in the comic, like Poer and Jack, are really interesting and unique, characters like this are no longer acceptable. It’s not the WORST thing in the world, but it is annoying. But hey, maybe as the series progresses and we see more of him, he’ll transition away from Lestrade, like with Doyle and Bell.
And now, the art. I tell ya, I thought the art in the last issue was good. But somehow, it’s improved. And yet, still has the same look and feel! It’s amazing! The characters look less sketchy, but are still recognisable. There’s more detail and flair to each new character, as well as the old ones. Those background colours are back, and it’s a welcome return, let me tell you. And when we see Jack again at the end… my god. The blackness, the shadows, the blood, the red background that seemed like it was glowing! Hats off once again to artist Martha Laverick, she’s outdone herself! The only nitpick I can find is in the panel layout. A lot of panels are wide shots, often just with a single character in them. This leads to a lot of empty space around them. Just seems like a waste is all. Still, that could just be a intended visual aesthetic, so I’m not too worried.
So is Spring Heeled Jack #2 worth reading? If you need to ask that question, then you haven’t been paying attention. Whilst I do have some nitpicks (Bearing in mind I’m the kind of guy who questions how so much Kryptonite could be found on Earth. I mean, Krypton exploded millions of lightyears away! How do so many chunks of it keep winding up- I digress.), it’s nonetheless a pleasure to read and a joy to review. If you haven’t already picked up a copy, plus issue one, then you are stupid and your mother and I are very disappointed in you. Now go to your room.
But what do YOU think of Spring Heeled Jack #2? Was it a 19th Century knockout? Or a turn of the century travesty? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter! Meanwhile, I’m going to see if I can invent a device that will allow me to leap tall buildings just like Spring Heeled Jack. I haven’t had much luck to be honest. All I’ve got is a machine that increases energy output by twofold and produces no waste material. I mean, who’d want that?