Jack Staff – brilliant old fashioned superhero-ing
by Paul Grist
What’s the most consistently entertaining bit of superhero action being published in comics right now? No, not Spider-Man, not X-Men, nothing recent by Grant Morrison comes close, Bendis is nowhere near and the new boys; Fraction et al can’t hold a candle to it. Any ideas? Or are the pictures above a bit of a give-away?
Paul Grist’s Jack Staff is a stunning amalgam of all that was wonderful in every great British and American superhero comic from years gone by and still manages to be fresh and new in these modern times. There’s no grim and gritty here, no tortured men in tights struggling with post modern depression, just good, old fashioned adventure.
Within the first 100 pages of this fantastic superhero comic Paul Grist manages to create his own perfectly evolved superhero mythos that borrows extensively from not just Marvel Comics, but from the long and convoluted history of British comics. You could spend this entire review reading about who Grist is referencing here, but that’s something you’ll have fun doing for yourself.
(Just some of the extensive cast of Jack Staff by Paul Grist.)
Over the first story arc, Grist effortlessly jumps forwards and backwards in time, without confusion or loss of narrative flow and then ups the ante, throwing character after character at us, a parade of the weird and wonderful that are so brilliantly crafted and so cleverly made, that instead of making the whole thing a character heavy, confusing mess, it adds layer upon brilliant layer to an already excellent story until it effectively becomes a quite marvellously inventive anthology title with one brilliantly convoluted and complex, yet ever so rewarding story.
You’ll meet Jack Staff, Britain’s greatest superhero (missing for decades), the members of Q, a strange shadowy organisation investigating those crimes too weird for local law enforcement to cope with. You’ll meet The Spider, an old super-thief, looking to re-establish himself by ridding the world of a copy-cat. You’ll meet Becky Burdoch, girl (and later vampire) reporter, Tom Tom The Robot Man, Charlie Raven and so many more. Grist even finds the time to include a perfect, in story pastiche of both Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman without missing a beat.
(Rich Tea, always Rich Tea. Not the way you’d expect an arch enemy to behave. But that’s the great thing about Jack Staff ; taking all of those comic book clichés and turning them on their head at the very same time as revelling in them. From Paul Grist’s Jack Staff Volume 1.)
I’ve loved Paul Grist’s artwork in his detective tale Kane (see review here), and his art in Jack Staff, although less noir-ish, is just as good, whether it’s the stylish black and white of the first volume or the lush Phil Elliott colours of volume 2; Soldiers.
Page after page of inventive layouts, page after page of fantastic action, all perfectly illustrated in Grist’s instantly recognisable style. A visual treat. What does need saying, because not enough people seem to give Grist enough credit for this, is that he’s one of the best complete storytellers around. Everything is connected here, the story, art and even his inventive lettering all help to create something very special.
(Grist’s work, lovely in b&w, just pops off the page in colour. From Paul Grist’s Jack Staff Volume 2. Colours by Phil Elliott)
Jack Staff; Everything Used To Be Black And White is a huge book reprinting the first 12 issues of Paul Grist’s Jack Staff comic. Soldiers reprints the first 5 issues of his colour Image series. There are another two Jack Staff books available after these and Paul is currently producing the new title The Weird World Of Jack Staff.
It’s wonderful, inventive, an absolute riot of superhero adventure fun, far better than any number of the comics that provide some of the source material Paul is basing many of his characters on. Really, it’s the best superhero series you’ll have read in a long, long time.