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Graphic Novel Review

Book Cover

Springheeled Jack (Hardback)


Writer: David Hitchcock
Artist: David Hitchcock
Publisher: Titan
RRP: £14.99
Age: 15+
128 pages
Publication Date: 10 September 2014

High above a steampunk London of Penny Dreadfuls, Jack the Ripper and pea-soup fog… stalks the legendary demon, Springheeled Jack! From his quarters in Bedlam lunatic asylum, Sir Jack Rackham hunts the creature. Across the gothic rooftops of necropolis London and through the labyrinths of his tortured mind, he pursues the creature that took his beloved. But just who or what is Springheeled Jack? Does the answer lie amongst the lunatics of Rackham’s sanatorium – or in the very heart of the British Empire: with Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace...?

An original work collected here in a handsomely produced hardback edition, Springheeled Jack explores some familiar territory to nonetheless vibrant and enjoyable effect. Taking the mid-19th century urban myth of the titular phantom into the gaslit fog of late Victorian London, the better to take advantage of that era's fictional landscape, David Hitchcock turns the uncanny visitor into the harbinger of an alien invasion, believed in and battled with only by his stalwart science-heroes.

Sir Jack Rackham, much given to brooding over the memory of his vanished lady love, puts his intellect and resources – supplemented with a nifty set of mechanical bat-wings courtesy of the off-panel support of the Wright brothers – into the task of chasing down the menace, with the help of his flighty friend Dr. Henry Jekyll who has some innovations and personal problems of his own to contend with. Meanwhile at Buckingham Palace, Prince Albert struggles with a grotesque illness connected with the invaders.

The scenario and setting naturally draw comparison with the best-known recent works of Alan Moore, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and to a lesser extent From Hell. Hitchcock is aware of the parallels but resists the urge to exploit them, favouring a heady pulp storytelling style with extensive use of internal monologue, supplemented by some lush lettering. His black and white pencil art is bold and expressive throughout, with the scenes of the invaders looming over the soot-blackened rooftops of London conveying authentic menace; the character work on Rackham and Jekyll (and the latter's infamous alter ego when he appears) is highly effective as well.

At only 128 pages Springheeled Jack leaves a sense of having told its story a little too quickly, yet it's an enjoyable tale of derring-do with some fine touches of horror and black comedy. Titan have made a fine job of this collection, rounded out with bonus chapters and sketches that demonstrate Hitchcock's artistic growth and command of his pulp Victorian art style. It's a great read throughout.


Richard Hunt

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