"Citizen Jack: Volume 1" Trade Paperback Review
Written by Angry Scholar
Published by Image Comics
Originally published as Citizen Jack #1-6
Written by Sam Humphries
Illustrated by Tommy Patterson
Colored by Jon Alderink
2016, 168 pages
Trade paperback released on July 27th, 2016
Jack Northworthy is a has-been politician/ex-local hockey star who now spends his days failing to sell snow-blowers in a small Minnesota town called Musk. He wears a bathrobe and cowboy hat more often than not; is loud, aggressive, and stupid, and in light of recent real-world events, a perfect candidate for President of the United States.
That’s not just some timely satire on my part: Citizen Jack is about this idiot running for president. That part, troubling though it may be, is not as surprising in 2016 as it might once have been (a fact of which the creators of the book are obviously aware). The kicker of this hateful ignoramus’ campaign, unbeknownst to his constituents but knownst to us, is that it’s all orchestrated by a purple demon named Marlinspike, who has his glowing red eyes fixed squarely on the Oval Office.
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The first trade follows Jack’s unlikely ascension from last-minute extremist nobody to serious contender for the White House. He is beset by scandals from the start. A television pundit names a few: ““This is only the latest scandal for Northworthy, joining Methamphetaminegate, Kibblegate, and Gazebogate ...” Booze is an issue—Jack’s a fan of the stomach-churningly-named “choco-bourbon”—and his campaign goes off the rails time and again, only to be forced back on track by his savvy campaign manager Donna. And, of course, the silent partner, Marlinspike.
In fact, most everything that happens does so at the behest of Marlinspike, who cracks wise with the best of his ilk and provides a great deal of black humor, of which there is a lot. His attitude, and even his character design, are vaguely reminiscent of Spawn’s classic clown/demon, the Violator. He’s an immensely likeable character, which is weird to say since he’s an evil, murderous demon, but for us fans of horror, comics, and horror comics, it’s actually par for the course. In a good way.
Jack’s party is the conservative one, in this universe known as the Freedom Party. His left-of-center opponents are the Patriot Party. These and other details, like the talking dolphin named Cricket who serves as a pundit on a cable news show, remind us that it’s not exactly the real world we’re looking at. But it’s painfully close.
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Humphries’ writing is spot-on, perfectly capturing the idiocy and unintentional humor of election-year politics (especially with the talk show commentary by Cricket and his co-hosts). Nothing feels heavy-handed or forced; even the demons feel organic to this universe.
The art by Tommy Patterson is solid, equal parts cartoonish and gritty. Jon Alderink’s colors are heavy, saturated, and bright, vying with ugly, ugly people doing ugly (but frequently hilarious) things. Occasionally panels look almost cel-shaded, reinforcing the cartoonish vibe of the story; other times we see rough outlines peeking through that emphasize the grit. It’s usually not pretty to look at, but it perfectly matches the tone of the story.
Citizen Jack: Vol. 1 drags on a bit at times, with an awful lot of text and an occasional sense that we’re just waiting for Jack’s next stunt or Marlinspike’s next comic interlude. It doesn’t get so far as to reveal Marlinspike’s reasons for pursuing the presidency, beyond a vague sense that he’s a demon and demons like to cause chaos. But the story is interesting and hilarious, and I’m very much looking forward to volume two.