Electability, as a concept, is actually pretty fucked up. Having less to do with a given candidate’s core values or political platforms, it’s really just a voting criterion based on image, be it a physical presence or, these days, emotive bluster. Apparently tracing its etymology to the mid-19th century (though conceptually much older than that), the modern context of electability was brought to the American fore in 1960, when the very first televised presidential debate arguably gave the more attractive and composed John F. Kennedy a win over Richard Nixon in the elections that year. Since then, thanks to our society’s increasingly perverse obsession with televised freak shows, an even more manic media-driven electability has developed and become inextricable from the United States presidential race process, as both an indicator of how susceptible the human condition is to well-placed (if inane) marketing, and proof positive that democracy’s dick is getting ever more firmly kicked into the dirt. Exploring that terrifying idea is Citizen Jack #2, which uses the unfortunately topical farce of electability as its main thematic drive.
As failed hockey brawler / snow-blower salesman Jack Northworthy continues his ill-advised, Hell-backed bid for presidential power this issue by relying on the help (and subsequent downfall) of an old friend, we get a taste of why the American electorate could best be described as a drunken frat boy at a Tijuana Donkey show.
Now, by the admission of its creative team, Citizen Jack #2 may not be a direct commentary about the cult of personality around the currently ongoing (and seemingly endless) presidential election - particularly the voting public’s morbid fascination with train-wreck candidates like Donald Fucking Trump - but Humphries and Patterson hit very similar beats. This is perhaps best expressed in the words of a character named Mr. Bollinger, a wealthy conservative funder to the Northworthy campaign, who refuses to pull his endowment because he, “can’t wait to see what [Jack] does next.” This is, of course, the exact reason Trump has come so terrifyingly far with his campaign.
As we watch the charmingly loathsome Jack endear himself to the public by tapping into deep reserves of relatable ineptitude and the demonic machinations of the devil Marlinspike, with whom he has made his Faustian pact for power (and who motivates his charge with very Shia LeBeouf-esque platitudes), we get an interesting look into the background of our “protagonist,” as well as insight into his surprisingly loyal morality.
In that, Humphries continues to do a great job of building this story around Jack as a compelling character with as many flaws as drives, painting a picture of an imbecile who is way out of his depth, but who strives for more in the spirit of the great American dream. As I mentioned in my review of its first issue, I love the fall of a good fool, and Jack is one of the absolute best. With punchy, easy dialogue that is as entertainingly organic as it is topical, Humphries has created a well-fleshed world that is one part Idiocracy and another part Prez, lampooning the idea of electability as a practice cultivated from the very depths of Hell, while still being a very human invention.
Patterson and Alderink’s art, meanwhile, remains a grotesquely detailed yet cartoonish collaboration that rolls with the story well, especially in the more farcical elements, like the anthropomorphic talking-head news dolphin named Cricket, the mind-bending hellscape torture room splash page and the insectoid appearance of Marlinspike.
Beneath Alderink’s various veneers, and only very rarely overwrought colors, Patterson does a good job of grounding his more mundane moments in comically expressive detail, leaving his backgrounds mostly sparse. That decision gives the issue a foreground focus, but can make some of its panels feel rushed and unfinished, with Alderink having to sometimes get creative with poppy colors.
As a fan of fun political satire, I’m still really enjoying this book. Sure, it gets a bit silly at times - demons and talking dolphins do abound (though Cricket does remind me of a “cuter” version of the non-human outsider voice in something like Quinn’s Ishmael). But it’s an interesting application, albeit a somewhat flippant one, in the discussion on electability, and I for one am more than happy to continue to #GetJacked.
Citizen Jack #2 Writer: Sam Humphries Artist: Tommy Patterson Colorist: Jon Alderink Letterer: Rachel Deering Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 12/2/15 Format: Print/Digital