Review: Citizen Jack #1

Like peanut butter and chocolate or pork chops and applesauce, politicians and hellbeasts of the infinite void have long been, successfully and in the same breath, paired together. There’s just something about Man’s bid for power and the kingdom of fire and lies that goes together I guess, and it’s that very collusion that Image’s Citizen Jack preys upon in its first issue. But is this new ongoing series truly possessed of something supernatural, or is it just completely soulless? In this first issue, we are introduced to the titular Jack Northworthy: a one-time feared hockey player, he has devolved since into a renowned and very public lush, an inept snowblower salesman and a famously failed mayor of quaint northern hamlet, Musk, Minnesota. Depressed at having peaked so early in life, and tired of being spurned by the ex-wife who took his job, his big-boss daddy who couldn’t think less of him if he tried, and the townsfolk who look at him as, at best, a joke, and at worst, a dangerous liability, Jack strikes a deal with the amazingly-monikered demon, Marlinspike, who hisses sweet promises of making him the president of these United Sates.

I’ve always been a fan of the lovable louts. The brutes. The Fools. The Guy Gardners. The Harvey Bullocks. The Brooklyn Brawlers. To me, that character template offers such a fun and fertile canvas for story -- be it comedy or tragedy -- simply because the reader’s relationship with him or her is that complex: satisfying to dislike, but hard not to root for in some way. That’s exactly the character backdrop that Citizen Jack #1 offers: a Faustian bargain made by Falstaff. Okay, sure, that may not be an entirely new conceit, but I find its privileged, bro-tagonist narrative particularly interesting, and Jack Northworthy, as a character, one hell of a compelling train wreck to rubberneck.

Citizen-Jack-#1What a charmingly boorish buffoon this guy is! Sporting a cowboy hat, a tattered fuzzy pink bathrobe, a bottle of bourbon and a revolver for the majority of the issue, this erstwhile leader of men has clearly seen better days (which presumably didn’t involve flashing his shrinkage to Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea). Even here, however, his dogged dunderheadedness is not without its sympathetic edge, and it’s impossible not to feel sorry for the damn fool bastard as he gets sucked further into the mire of hell’s seduction and his own misguided sense of purpose.

I haven’t previously been blown away by writer Sam Humphries’ body of work, though that may simply be thanks to my not having come across much of it. In Citizen Jack #1, however, Humphries is firing on all cylinders and shows such exceptional promise as a creator, I now want to check out more. Led mostly by the insecure trappings of Jack’s enthusiastically pathetic dialogue, Humphries draws us through a world spiteful of its idiots, while at the same time trumpeting a similar vacuousness. Y’know, a bit like our own (*cough* Trump *cough* CNBC *cough*). This is in no way better expressed in the issue than the juxtaposition between Jack’s dickheaded antics, and the vapid, hollow (and thematically well-timed) presidential campaign news coverage, part of which is hosted by an anthropomorphic porpoise in a suit...for some reason?

That oddly-chosen (and fairly unnecessary) bit of surreality notwithstanding, Citizen Jack #1 displays a welcome acerbic wit that is self deprecating, with a surface tension that’s just shy of the perhaps purer satire of Idiocracy, and the promise of what could be a fulfilling depth of character. Either way it goes, this is a very good start.

Visually, Citizen Jack #1 is a fucking delight. Again, I’m not well-versed in Tommy Patterson’s body of work -- not having picked up what seems to be a bevy of artistic turns on licensed properties like Game of Thrones, Farscape and Grimm Fairy Tales -- but I’m so glad I’ve been (pun incoming) exposed to it here. His art in this first issue reminds me of a Nick Pitarra meets Darick Robertson meets John Byrne style, with figure work that is thick and wrinkled -- a sort of focused sense of being flawed -- while his facial acting boasts great (and sometimes grotesque) comedic timing. It’s an amazing balance of cleanliness and detail that I think works unassumingly, as much as it assails.

At the same time, Patterson offers up two splash pages that are nothing short of magnificent; one, a subaquatic frozen hell-scape, and the other a psychedelic face-to-face Jack has with a vastly more powerful universal force, whose street-level straight talk belies his reality-twisting powers. The severity of Jon Alderink’s pastel-soaked colors varies in intensity, I find, and there were a few miscues when characters found themselves at distance in the background, but it was nothing overly egregious and there was enough harsh lighting to offer an interesting (and often creepy) tonal shift.

I enjoyed the heck out of Citizen Jack #1. In both its chunky, fun and even exhilarating visual direction and its unabashed doofy narrative drive, this first issue shares throughout its pages the abrasive, grimy charisma of its lead and I can’t wait to pig out on more!

Score: 4/5

Citizen Jack #1 Writer: Sam Humphries Artist: Tommy Patterson Colorist: Jon Alderink Letterer: Rachel Deering Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 11/4/15 Format: Print/Digital