Calamity Jack by Dean Hale, Shannon Hale and Nathan Hale

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Calamity Jack by Dean Hale, Shannon Hale and Nathan Hale

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A rampant adventure loosely based on Jack and the Beanstalk, bearing little resemblance to the panto you might know. I think it could have been more rampant and much less loose, however.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 144 Date: January 2010
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing plc
ISBN: 978-0747587422

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I was born to scheme, declares our hero Jack. With flashbacks we see the young lad and a pixie friend, larking about for revenge or small profit. But when his mother's bakery gets more and more into the red, the size of the profit has to increase. And when you add in revenge against the local crime lord - a giant of a man - so does the size of the target of the jape.

With the expected magic beans this Jack manages to enter the giant's domain, steal the goose that lays golden eggs, and return to earth, but there's the rather large matter of the giant himself now wanting revenge. Cue a roustabout romp, where we meet the Ant Men, Mr Jabbers, and a lot more.

For fans of the graphic novel form approaching this book there is a hefty dollop of steampunk, with the usual old-style technology and decor, airships and so on. It's a very child-friendly, water-down style of steampunk however, and the creators could have gone a lot further.

But I would consider this a young girl's (or equally, a young man's) comic, and here there are problems too. I felt several times a jerkiness and an awkwardness in my reading of this - my reading of pictures and words at the same time, not the literal taking in of the script. It seemed to be a little off-kilter, with awkward jumps at times. Things didn't move smoothly in combination from one frame to the next.

Witness the introduction of Rapunzel, a returning character so familiar from Rapunzel's Revenge. She bursts out of nowhere into a splash image, using her detached hair as a superhero's weapon, and then is given an image of poise, then introduced through the words. It's unsettling, and I'm sure alienating to some extent to the younger reader.

Beyond that the adventure is certainly of some quality - just don't expect the Jack and the Beanstalk from the stage show, and take the blurb (promising a gangster-filled retelling) with a pinch of salt. It takes in unusual nasties, and strong action set pieces, but didn't have a final edge I would have expected.

The book looks lush throughout, with a bright palate that still looks the result of fine art direction - it's not too colourful. You can wallow in the images finding detail to savour - I just think the script needed a further draft for clarity, as the characters and plot are stronger than the telling. With Bill Willingham taking Jack so much further with delirious consequences in his (admittedly not entirely child-friendly) graphic novels, this did not distinguish itself enough.

I must still thank Bloomsbury for my review copy.

For a straighter approach to characters of fable in graphic form, we recommend Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood by Tony Lee.

Buy Calamity Jack by Dean Hale, Shannon Hale and Nathan Hale at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Calamity Jack by Dean Hale, Shannon Hale and Nathan Hale at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Calamity Jack by Dean Hale, Shannon Hale and Nathan Hale at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Calamity Jack by Dean Hale, Shannon Hale and Nathan Hale at Amazon.com.


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