The last comics I read were the IDW X-Files crossover-with-everything-conspiracy-event. I found those books so offensively bad that I literally had a mental breakdown, left my job, moved halfway across the state, and started writing fanfiction where Mulder and Scully help me save the IDW staff from any further bad ideas. Halfway through this tumultuous spring, in the eye of my midlife crisis storm, I alighted upon Loki: Ragnarock & Roll and I was happy for a week. Then I remembered that I would have to waste several days of my life on the phone with customer service to get internet set up at my new apartment, and I was once again consumed by existential anguish.
What I’m saying is that I’m stuck comparing Jack Kraken to Comcast’s Customer Service; I’m obviously not in a mental state to make any objective claims about quality.
Jack Kraken is pleasantly surprising. First, the format and the price point were quite refreshing. Dark Horse has provided this introduction to Jack Kraken as a 31 page one-shot containing three separate episodes following Jack, with a cover price of only $3.99.
The writer on all three stories was Tim Seeley, who provided art for the cover and the middle story. Ross Campbell and Jim Terry provided art for the other two stories. Despite three different artists, the feel was coherent overall, helped by colorist Carlos Badilla who worked on the entire issue.
In addition to a look that flowed together, the three short stories fit together well, giving small glimpses into business as usual in the world where Jack Kraken lives. In contrast with the more common origin story approach, this technique gives the reader an opportunity to piece together some of the details on his own, which I personally prefer.
Jack seems to work for a Men in Black style organization, called Humanoid Interaction Management, charged with keeping the peace between big foots, ghosts, vampires, banshees, and other not quite make believe monsters. Sorry though, it's not polite to call them ‘ghosts’ they are ‘Greys.’ You see, within the story world, each of these races or species has an alternative designation. This simple detail brings a background of social and political tension into play almost immediately.
Jack himself is an octopus man who wears something like the sexy Halloween version of a Deadpool / Spider-Man spandex mash up with a modest number of belt pouches. Personality wise, Jack does recall something of the mercenary with a heart of gold trope, but with more self awareness then Deadpool, so I would end all comparisons to Marvel property at the color scheme of his costume.
Over the span of the three stories, Jack is first charged with saving a vampire princess from big foot and some ghosts. He returns to headquarters with some human girls he found at the scene because he’s not a complete ass hole, despite his consistently politically incorrect language. Jack’s next mission is not officially sanctioned, as he tracks a recently released banshee, allowing his assumption of recidivism to scare him into killing her. The last issue finds Jack fighting the zebra lady from the cover. After a debate about cultural relativism, Jack wins a totally sweet movie poster.
Overall, Jack Kraken was a fun read and contained more substance than I expected from it's campy zebra lady cover art. It's also a huge amount of story for the price, so there's no guilty after taste.