"Spring Heeled Jack #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Alterna Comics
Written by Tony Deans
Illustrated by Martha Laverick
2014, 24 Pages
Comic released on November 19th, 2014
Stop me if you've heard this one: A string of grisly murders wrack Victorian London and no one knows who could be behind them. No, it's not Jack the Ripper. It's the legend of Spring Heeled Jack, a clawed demon capable of leaping over buildings like old-school Superman. I was unfamiliar with the legend of this creature, and it turns out it goes back almost 200 years with explanations ranging from a guy in a costume to a supernatural being. This comic from writer Tony Deans and artist Martha Laverick falls more towards the latter.
The unique spin with this interpretation of Spring Heeled Jack is that the detective investigating the case is none other than Arthur Conan Doyle. He's joined by his mentor Joseph Bell to attempt to make heads or tails on these strange murders. Both are men of logic, so the idea of a creature that can evade police and leap several stories into the air is unfathomable to them. What little evidence they have flies right in the face of any rational thought, so they're pushed completely out of their comfort zones.
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The dynamic between the two investigators is very much like Sherlock Holmes and Watson. This should come as no real surprise considering that Doyle created Holmes. Bell acts much like the famed detective, even showing his apparent lack for social skills by insulting Doyle from the moment he meets him.
Let's get back to the title character. That's probably why you're here in the first place, right? I recently reviewed another depiction of Spring Heeled Jack in David Hitchcock's graphic novel from Titan Comics. That was painted a bit more alien and more than a little weird. Laverick's design is more akin to a vampire, with pale skin, glowing red eyes, and sharp teeth. It's downright creepy. Jack is certainly not someone I'd want to run into in a dark alley. How he commits these murders and why has not yet been revealed. Right now he's little more than a monster, albeit a very unsettling one.
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Laverick's cover for this issue is superb. It's a great symmetrical layout with Jack in the center and two corpses appearing just over each shoulder, blossoming out like deformed and horrific wings. There's a small splatter of blood across Jack's face that is the one thing in the image that is not mirrored on either side.
Spring Heeled Jack is an atmospheric horror tale that creeps up on you. There's a mystery at the heart of the story, shrouded in bloodshed and the supernatural. It also presents Victorian London in an easily approachable light, not some stuffy high society like in a Charles Dickens novel.