Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pull List Review: Where is Jake Ellis? #1

The band is back together!

My love for Who is Jake Ellis? is no secret, so to say that I was hotly anticipating this follow-up series would be one hell of an understatement. And though it didn't rock me to my very core as I might have wanted, Where is Jake Ellis? #1 was a more than satisfying return to the world and characters I so adore.
     In terms of story, this really was just about bringing Jake and Jon, heroes of the previous series, back together. Jon has been in hiding since Who ended, but some agency or other seems to have finally found him, and so he is forced to run for his life through Bangkok, ending up at the US embassy only to discover he's no safer there than he was before. Meanwhile, Jake has been trapped in a military hospital, not allowed to leave or even get a phone call until he tells his government what he can remember from his time away. Which, he claims, is nothing. Ultimately Jake, too, gets to do a bit of fleeing, escaping his captors and making it home to his wife. Sadly, she has moved on with another man, and even has a child now, so, like Jon, Jake is no better off where he ends up than he was where he began. These parallels between Jon and Jake's experiences---the running, the futility of said running, the teams of armed men on their heels, etc.---remind us of how much these two men have shared, while at the same time displaying their key differences. Jon is motivated by survival, but Jake actually wants to get somewhere, get back to a normal life, get back to himself. Neither succeeds on his own, though, and so by the end Jake takes leave of his own body and becomes once again the helpful voice in Jon's head.
     And there was much rejoicing.
     Nathan Edmonson's script is direct and brisk, giving the action sequences plenty of room to breathe while the dialogue stays fairly light. It all works quite effectively, and considering that anyone who'd read the previous series could more or less predict where the first issue of this sequel would end up (i.e. that Jake would be Jon's guide once again), the choice to waste no time in arriving there was an excellent one. From here, exactly what the world has in store for our two-heroes-in-one-body is anyone's guess, but mostly I'm just glad they're back in action.
     Meanwhile, the best part of Where is Jake Ellis? #1 isn't anything specific that happens in the story. Instead it is, as it was all throughout Who, Tonci Zonjic's masterful artwork. Although there isn't so much of the pages-washed-in-one-color technique he used so skillfully before, Zonjic's coloring is no less brilliant here. From the brash blues of the hospital to the murky green-browns of the water, everything is given a perfectly appropriate hue to set the mood for each scene. But colors aside, it is Zonjic's deft grasp on action scenes that really makes this book what it is. He can cram a page full of fights in two different locations, each with multiple combatants, bystanders, and more, yet never once confuse the reader with clutter or a lack of clarity. And he just nails the climatic moments, like Jon jumping off a roof while getting shot through the arm, or diving off a boat just in time to avoid getting shot again. Zonjic keeps the energy frenetic and the violence crisp, the perfect feeling for a spy/thriller such as this.
     But don't think he's any less talented in the calmer moments. Quite the opposite. In fact, while the action scenes may be the most impressive, it is during those times when Jake is quietly, furiously brooding that Where is Jake Ellis? #1 has the most emotional weight. He is a broken man, desperate to return to a life he knew long ago, and though his words are few, his misery is heavy and enormous and obvious through Zonjic's drawing. And when, seeing his wife with her new family, Jake finally gives up and gives in, sending his consciousness back to Jon's mind for safekeeping, Zonjic draws the shit out of that, too. It is the moment we've all been waiting for, but still a somber one.
     Some things have changed and some have reverted, and now the ball is truly rolling once again. Where is Jake Ellis? #1 is a damn fine debut to a promising sequel. It was well worth the wait, and it makes waiting for the second issue that much more difficult.

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