You’re probably no stranger to Ben Hatke’s work. He grows in popularity with each new book he releases and the truly great thing is that he dabbles with different stories all the time. His other book this year (that’s right, multiple books) Everyone Hates Goblins, is completely different from Might Jack. He’s a versatile storyteller. It wasn’t until the opening page that I suddenly realized that this was Hatke’s version of the classic story Jack and the Beanstalk. I facepalmed at that realization. The great part is that now you think you know the story and you don’t. Because I said it’s Hatke’s version, but that doesn’t mean he follows the same outline.
Rather the opposite. That’s the charm of the book. It has characteristics of the original story, but everything else is fresh. Jack has a sister that doesn’t talk, he’s being asked to help more and grow up because their livelihood is in danger if mom can’t pay the bills. Instead of a beanstalk, there’s a magical garden. But the garden is dangerous. Jack knows this and something in his gut tells him to get rid of it, but it makes his sister happy and occasionally talk. That means something to Jack and so he continues their adventure in the dangerous garden where everything is alive and not everything is friendly.
In the short time I’ve been reading Hatke’s books I’ve seen him grow from a great storyteller to now a master storyteller. He’s on another level compared to anyone making young adult graphic novels. Hell, I would even say that he’s surpassed most of the comic industry. The character work he does with Jack is amazing. There’s physical and emotional changes that Jack goes through that you simply can’t ignore, but there’s more. The work that Hatke does with the rest of the characters is on the same level. Particularly with the mom. That’s the crazy part, we have a story that’s found a way to remove the mom from the story, but rather than doing that Hatke keeps her in. He makes her an important part of the story and realistic in that she’s not just absent from the kid’s lives.
A lot of Hatke’s talent and master storytelling comes from his artwork. I would kill to have his hands, they’re that talented. It’s like getting the Robot Devil’s hands. Hatke experiments design and visual metaphors within Mighty Jack and it works. I haven’t read all of his books, but what I have has never been like this.
The line work is detailed, but not too much. It’s as if he’s holding back intentionally because at its core this book is for kids and so heavy line work isn’t needed. The creature design is iconic and extremely cool looking. Moreover, Hatke makes the living garden feel like it’s alive. I know that seems like, “well yeah it should,” but it really feels like it’s alive. You get the same sense of danger from the garden that Jack does and that’s all coming from the way Hatke illustrates it.
There’s a lot I’m not telling you and it sucks because I don’t want it to seem like it was lost on me. There’s a cameo that was great. There’s an entire scene which I think might be a glimpse at the future of the series. There’s a lot to digest and talk about, but that’s better served in the comments. I’m just glad that they’re will be more to this series, but even happier that it was rewarding to read on its own.
Here’s the catch. This book is for kids, but I think adults will get as much if not more out of it. Because while reading it, I felt like a kid again. I felt like I was on an adventure with friends. Maybe it was elements of the family dynamic that I related to or maybe it was just that Hatke is a master storyteller.
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