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Politics is a devil’s game in ‘Citizen Jack’ #1

Politics is a devil’s game in ‘Citizen Jack’ #1

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Citizen Jack #1
Written by Sam Humphries
Art by Tommy Patterson
Colored by John Alderink
Lettered by Rachel Deering
Published by Image Comics

Jack Northworthy is a loser. Once the mayor of the small town of Musk Lake, Minnesota, he now runs a dying snowplow business with a steady diet of alcohol and self-loathing. But Jack’s got a special friend named Marlinspike. He is a demon straight out of Hell, and he has a plan to get Jack elected president of the United States. Jack has got no idea how they are going to pull it off, but he plays along. Why him though? And what will it cost him? Political satire meets supernatural horror in this new Image series that explores the old truth that politics is a devil’s game.

Image is currently the reigning king when it comes to comics with over-the-top stories and flashy art, but can these aesthetics do political satire? Maybe.

The comic’s satire is in your face and meant to get the point across. Subtlety be damned. A good example of this is the cover. Jack’s prideful campaign slogan is made horrifying with the domineering face of Marlinspike, suggesting corruption in politics. There is a recurring news show, Fire Fight, that uses meaningless buzzwords, lies, and flawed polls to misinform the public. It is flashy and has no real substance, but that is the point. News programs are presented as echo chambers for people to justify their opinions, not meant for critical thinking. The only one using logic is a talking dolphin that points out the flaws of the polls, only to be talked over. This implies that common sense has no place in the modern news program. Again, not subtle, but it gets the point across and, most importantly, is funny.

The most obvious critique will be that the satire is liberal-biased. Humphries and Patterson are currently only making fun of the right wing. This does raise questions to how far will they go with the satire: Will Citizen Jack, ironically, become an echo chamber for the left wing? Will it explore how both the mainstream right wing and left wing media dumbs down the American public? How current politics actually negatively affects the political system? With only one issue in, the creators have potential to further explore politics and go more in depth than typically given credit to a genre story. Time will tell if they achieve this potential or not.

Another issue with the effectiveness of satire is the horror aspect of Citizen Jack. Genre mash-ups are not new in comics or any other medium, and if They Live is any indication, horror and political satire can go cleverly hand-in-hand. However, with such a strong focus on Marlinspike, he either will overshadow or conflict with the political satire. These elements seem tied pretty well, but there is always the danger of one genre overshadowing the other, or maybe readers will find the genres too conflicting to be effective. As said before, time will tell.

A more personal take on politics is the story of Jack Northworthy. On one page, the reader learns that Jack’s original dream was to be a hockey player until an unspecific injury abruptly ended it. The color scheme for this page is American flag colors, which is very significant because this symbolizes that hockey was Jack’s American dream. The American dream is a lose concept, but the key theme to it is success. Unfortunately, not everyone realizes their dreams. Jack does not succeed being a hockey player, his business fails, his marriage fails, and the town mocks him. This shows that the American Dream, like all dreams, is not a guaranteed thing and even the most likely to achieve it  can fail utterly. This makes Jack a tragic hero, and the reader feels bad for him despite his pathetic nature.

CitizenJack01_PreviewPage4-932x1433Jack’s many failures might explain his relationship to Marlinspike. He must be really miserable to make a pack with a demon to try and achieve a new dream. Also, is this really Jack’s dream or a dream imposed upon him because Marlinspike knows the man is so desperate to be successful, he will try anything no matter the cost? This part of the story has its own political aspect, a powerful entity exploiting a desperate individual. Its a good theme to help tie in the horror and political satire, and the creators would do well to take advantage of it.

The art is detailed and colorful. Characters have very defining features, and environments, although not spectacular, have an attention to detail that many modern comics lack. For those more interested in the supernatural horror of the comic, there is great demonic imagery throughout. Marlinspike is a frightening monstrosity, and there is a scene in a lake that will make swimming less appealing. One notable flaw in the art are characters’ eyes. They sometimes appear to be just little black circles squiggled into eye sockets, very noticeable when the rest of a character is detailed. It is an easy flaw to fix (or perhaps not) depending on if the artist chooses to or not.

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Citizen Jack is off to a good if tad bit slow start. The political satire clashes a little bit with the supernatural horror, but seems to be doing a good job of tying the two together. The art is good, if flawed, and the  upcoming comic issues will determine whether or not Citizen Jack can hold its own in Image’s ever expanding library.

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