By Dustin Cabeal
Mighty Jack was one of the best graphic novels I read last year. I wasn’t surprised in the least that Ben Hatke already had a follow up to the series this year because he’s a machine and produces so many great stories and comics each year. It is impressive considering he writes and illustrates it all himself and the story and art never take a dip.
Now, you should pay close attention to the “Goblin King” part of the title because there is a reason that it’s larger than Might Jack. More on that later though. This volume continues the story that started in Mighty Jack which was a brilliant re-imagining of Jack and the Beanstock. Maddy, Jack’s sister, has been kidnapped for the giant that has taken over the strange realm they find themselves in. Jack is hellbent on saving his sister so much so that he doesn’t realize how hard he’s pushing Lilly. Soon they find themselves injured and separated. On top of that Jack needs to save Maddy before she’s feed to a machine that must eat human once it’s started.
Without saying too much, the bulk of the story follows Lilly. Once she’s separated from Jack, she finds herself in the precarious position of being claimed by the Goblin King as his bride… that he’ll eat. Some marry for love and life; others marry for food. The other goblins are nice and friendly creatures. They’re a little like Fraggles, but with knives. The goblins don’t particularly like the King, and so they continue to help Lilly as she must figure out how to avoid marriage and being eaten.
I’ll say this, the tone and style of this volume is very different from Mighty Jack. There were deeper emotions in the first volume as Jack was facing the facts about his home life and trying to help his sister that functions and sees things differently from other people. It was a touching story that had a dash of adventure to go along with it. This time the story is more about our trio overcoming adversity and working as a team. The theme is different, but the heart is still there. Lilly is the focus for sure, but that doesn’t mean Jack is stagnant. Sadly, due to how the events unfold Maddy is pretty much forgotten in this volume but does have one tremendous sequence near the end.
Hatke’s writing is very sharp, and while personally, I could have done with some deeper emotional moments in this volume, I completely understand that it just didn’t fit or work with the other story elements. There is one crazy thing at the end that I wish I could talk about, but let’s just say that we’ll see more of this world. Hatke is a careful planner with his stories which is why they end up executed so masterfully. He should teach a class to other comic writers because I read a lot of comics and so many of the stories are short sighted and going for cheap pops rather than have real substance. Hatke can write serious moments, fun and exciting adventures and still keep a perfect pace while telling the story.
What is also extremely impressive every time I read a story from Hatke, is the fact that he’s able to change his style to look completely different and yet similar to his other work. It’s clearly his work, but there’s just subtle differences in the amount of detail that he uses, to the designs. Mighty Jack is by far his most detailed line work, and while that’s not a slam against his previous work, it’s just that he’s opted to add more to the page. It works and sets this story apart and at the same time shows the improvement in his style. An artist that isn’t growing and changing becomes bored.
Mighty Jack and the Goblin King is very likely to end up on my best of list this year as well. Time will tell, and I rarely like to give that much away so early, but this is an entertaining story that continues the success and groundwork of the first volume by adding to it. We’ll see what Hatke adds to it next and if that’s successful or not. Given his track record, I won’t be betting against him.
Mighty Jack and the Goblin King
Creator: Ben Hatke
Publisher: First Second Books