‘Jack Kraken:’ Advance Comic Book Review

Jack Kraken is a creation from the mind of Tim Seeley, who is known for a variety of series and styles, though possibly most well known for the long-running, boundary-pushing series Hack/Slash and the Midwestern supernatural mystery Revival, created with artist Mike Norton, and both of which are published by Image.  Up to this point, I have only had the pleasure of reading Seeley’s Ex Sanguine, for which he also did the art, and that book’s macabre nature and unflinching look at the dark side, juxtaposed with an offbeat romantic element, sold me on Seeley and his various collaborators.  This Jack Kraken one-shot from Dark Horse intrigued me, and, as I read it, I found myself equal parts interested and perplexed, with more than a few questions:  Who is Jack Kraken?  What type of world does he exist in?  Where are the other comics that led up to this one, because I feel like I’m missing something.  It turns out that’s just the way Seeley intended people to be introduced to Jack Kraken, more or less in the middle of his adventures as the only secret agent with supernatural abilities working for Humanoid Interaction Management, referred to as H.I.M., a most comedic acronym, especially when used in a sentence, since it effortlessly works as a personal pronoun.

The one-shot is made up of three different stories, each with a different artist.  Ross Campbell and Jim Terry provide art on the first and third, respectively, and Seeley provides the art himself on the second.  The first two stories, Race Relations and The Ballad of Liadain Orlaith, originally appeared in DoubleFeature, a digital, genre-shifting anthology published through Four Star Studios, created by comic book writers and artists Chris Burnham, Sean Dove, Josh Emmons, Mike Norton, and Tim Seeley.  The third story, Who is Jack Kraken?, is a new story and works towards answering one of the biggest questions I asked above, but not in the way I expected.  The lettering is all by Crank!, and Carlos Badilla provides the colors for the three stories. This creates a sense of continuity that helps the stories all exist in the same space, even with separate plots and different artists.

This is a bizarre book, but you can easily see the seeds for future Jack Kraken stories sprinkled throughout, and Seeley’s cleverness often comes across in Kraken’s narration.  You have to buy into the simplicity of the idea, especially since you aren’t shown the building blocks of the story upfront, and in a way are entering the world of Jack Kraken almost as a child, knowing nothing beyond what you are being shown – you have no past experiences to draw on.  There is also an element of freedom in that feeling, and Seeley really, truly can do whatever he wants with this character, and there is a relaxed feel to these stories that is endearing.  Jack Kraken may not be for everyone, and that’s okay, but for those who are looking for something a little different, a little unconventional and out of the ordinary, then this strange supernatural secret agent may be a welcome surprise.

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