It’s that time again! Once more we explore the vast and exciting frontier of comic book reviews. You’ve read my last review of Spring Heeled Jack and now we continue with… what do you mean, you’ve not read my last review? “You never got around to it?” That’s no excuse! You stop what you’re doing right now and go and read it. I mean it. Right now. I had to do a recap in the last one and I’m not going to do so again. I’m not here to hold your hand! I’m not continuing the review until you do. I’m serious. This is it until you catch up. I can do this all day if I have to. Are you going? Good.
You back? Alright. Now we can do this properly. This is issue three of Spring Heeled Jack and WHAT THE HELL? The artwork! It’s all different! They got a new artist! What? What was wrong with the old one? I can’t deal with this! I DON’T LIKE CHANGE! I freak out when the seasons change; how am I meant to cope with this kind of malarkey? AAAAHHHH! AAAAAAHHHHH! AAAAAAAA- okay I’m used to it now. Fuss over nothing really. I’ve acclimatized.
So we pick up where we left off, with Arthur Conan Doyle confronting the demonic Spring Heeled Jack after a botched attempt to trap him. Aren’t you glad you read the other review? Otherwise, you’d be completely lost. After a brief struggle, Arthur manages to escape, returning home to find Joseph Bell. Naturally, Arthur is a mite concerned about the loss of life in the previous issue. By which I mean he socks him in the face! Booya!
After taking a walk to calm down, Arthur runs into his old friend Harry Houdini and- wait what? Arthur Conan Doyle knew Harry Houdini? I did some extensive research on this (Okay, I looked it up on Wikipedia; what do you want from me?) and apparently, this is true. Houdini and Doyle were friends at one point. Although they later had a falling out as Houdini was an accomplished spiritual debunker and Doyle was a firm believer in the paranormal, which is odd as in this comic, it appears as though Houdini might be less of a sceptic than Doyle. He basically tells him that if people believe in the impossible, that’s enough to make it real. In that case, I believe that Jonathan Frakes is currently being beaten up by life-size versions of the original Thunderbirds marionettes.
This inspires Arthur to go to a… shop… and there’s a lady… I- I’m not sure what’s going on at this point. What’s the shop? Why did he go to this one in particular? What do they sell? Is it an occult bookshop or something? You need a panel with an establishing shot! Where the hell are we? And why did he bump into a little girl with blood around her mouth? Oh, I forgot to mention, he bumps into a little girl with blood around her mouth. Blink and you miss it. Anyway, he asks the lady in the shop about myths and legends and she tells him about a thing called a Tulpa, a being that draws its power from belief.
Arthur goes back to Bell and explains the situation. He surmises that if they can change what people believe about Spring Heeled Jack, then they may be able to give him a weakness. They bury the hatchet and Bell expresses admiration for Arthur before they both awkwardly turn back to the matter at hand. Ah, the Victorian Era: when emotions were the height of vulgarity.
They plant a story in a newspaper that says that Jack cannot stand on… light? Sacred ground? Red bricks? Honestly, it’s difficult to tell. It’s clear he has a weakness now, but for the life of me the comic doesn’t show it that well. Anyway, it saves the life of a young woman, and Jack swears vengeance against Arthur. The End. Well, “the To Be Continued”. You know what I mean.
So that’s issue three. Is it as good as the last two? Yeeeeeeeeeees. But with a few nitpicks. First the good stuff. If you read my last reviews (which I KNOW you did!), you’ll know I had a bit of a problem with the characters of Bell and Doyle being too similar to their fictional counterparts. I have to say though, they seem to come into their own here. I’m seeing them more and more like Arthur and Joseph, not Holmes and Watson. They’re still a BIT similar, but, y’know, baby steps.
The plot is more of a mixed bag. I love the idea of Spring Heeled Jack being a separate paranormal phenomenon, given shape in the form of a monstrous killer. It fits into the whole Victorian sensibility of the time, when people like Jack the Ripper gave birth to larger-than-life gothic tales and folklore. I can’t help but feel like his weakness is a bit too effective, though. All Arthur and Bell need to do is print a story that tells people that he’s allergic to, I dunno, air or something, and boom, no more Spring Heeled Jack. Doubtless they’ll work around that in later issues, though.
The downside of the story is that it’s a bit to… convenient. Arthur JUST HAPPENS to run into Houdini who JUST HAPPENS to give Arthur the inspiration that JUST HAPPENS to lead him to someone who knows exactly what’s going on. And, again, they don’t show enough things in the actual panels. Maybe I’m an idiot who needs everything spelled out for him (Don’t say anything!) but there IS a sweet spot between holding the reader’s hand and letting them work everything out for themselves, and I like it when comics hit it.
And then there’s the artwork. I want to say this right off the bat… I like it. I mean, I loved the previous artist a lot, but Seth Kumpf does a great job here. It’s a bit one step forward, one step back. Although, maybe I shouldn’t be comparing these two artists. Actually, y’know what, I’m the reviewer, I’ll do whatever the hell I like! LET’S COMPARE AWAY! On the one hand, one of my complaints about the previous artist was that the panels had a lot of empty space in them. That’s not the case here. Each panel is filled to the brim with energy and all that good stuff. But it’s not overcrowded either. Much better!
However, one of the things I most liked about the previous art was the use of colour and shadows. Red shone so brightly against black, it was like it was glowing off the page. Here, there’s a much bigger variety of colour, but it’s all of the same tone. There are a few shadows here and there, but they’re not used to the same effect, which I suppose is fair enough; this IS a different artist trying to do their own thing. I’d say given all the good stuff going on, it’s a decent compromise.
So, is Spring Heeled Jack #3 worth reading? I’m glad to say that, once again, it is. As I keep reading this series, I get the feeling like it’s… an uncut diamond. If someone could come along and sand the rough edges, it would be a masterpiece. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good as it is, but I just feel like it’s got all this untapped potential lying around, making a mess. I mean, would it kill someone to pick up after themselves? This place looks like a bomb hit it. I’m not your maid! What was I talking about?
But what do YOU think of this comic? Was it a magical mystery or a crappy caper? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter! Meantime, I’m going to keep hoping that horrible things will happen to Jonathan Frakes. I just have to believe! Believe… and hope that those parcels of weaponised anthrax will be delivered to his house. No, I’m not going to tell you where I got them!