A man wakes up one day in a strange, secret place with no memories of how he got there residing in his mind, but plenty of other new and dangerous ideas in their place: thoughts on close-quarter combat, escaping highly trained government agents and the most efficient way to murder those he must. It’s an old story, we’ve all been there before, right? Who is Jake Ellis mines this traditional spy tale of all it’s tropes – amnesia, dead loved ones, picturesque european locales, underground facilities and preternatural action performances – but never feels tired or derivative because of it. You’ll be flipping through the pages so fast, just trying to stay on your toes, that you won’t have the time to even try and remember who else has told it.
What separates this take on the story from all those others is that titular character and the titular question that comes with him. Though the story follows Jon, an ex CIA-analyst who suddenly found himself on the run after awaking in said secret lair some time ago, it is Jake that fascinates us. In all of these stories the spy awakens with almost supernatural abilities and an amazingly increased instinctual intelligence; here though those thoughts are not simply his own, but belong to a man in his head, Jake Ellis.
The idea of not just anthropomorphizing but weaponizing the voice that we all have in our head – our conscience or subconscious – is a very interesting one; and more importantly having his instincts anthropomorphized allows for Jon to be involved in a number of stunning action sequences. The opening pages present the best of these: in them we see Jon confronting a number of criminal elements, acting and speaking strangely; then when the scene finishes we flashback and watch it again, only this time we can see Jake and all of a sudden everything makes sense.
As an action based comic so much of this stories success rides on the art and on this front Tonci Zonjic more than delivers. His panels are crisp and clean which keeps even the most chaotic of the action sequences coherent; which is important because the writing relies on us understanding them enough to follow along with Jake’s cognitive dissections. He also keeps the peacetime scenes interesting by giving the book an impressionistic art style: The character’s lines reflect their ambiguity of morals and origin while the coloring during certain scenes – those featuring alarms and discotheques – evoke an almost trancelike rhythm, a rare example of a comic dictating the pace at which you read it’s panels.
So overall this is a taut little read with a lot of fun action, however I can’t help but feel that the script lets things down slightly. What we are given is great but i would have loved more: more history, more complexity, more character and more banter, just more. At this length The comic format translates to around fourty minutes worth of reading; so it would be inaccurate to call this the equal of a great action movie when it is actually more like an action episode and not much more.
At first I was disappointed by this but then as I was putting the book on the shelf I saw something, a bold number one embossed on the side. Is this a series? If so I will certainly read more and if the story is unfinished then so too is this review, but at this stage I would say that whole Ellis may not be unmissable or revolutionary it is just about as much fun as the medium allows and that is surely reason enough to give it a read.
Edit: Jake Ellis artist Tonci Zonjic has gotten back to me on that elusive number one (exclusive!), and this is what he had to say on whether it was a sign or simply a slip-up on Images part:
really glad you liked the book! There indeed are plans for more- at one point it was even announced as an ongoing series, which was impossible to do for a variety of reasons- but a second volume will definitely happen. We are still figuring out the timeline on it, as both Nathan and me have a bunch of other stuff on the plate at the moment… so it’ll be late in the year maybe, or early 2013? so yeah, might be a bit of a wait, but hopefully worth it.
Thanks again for the kind words, and cheers–
So there you have it, bring on ’Volume Two’ cause Jake Ellis I ‘aint done with you!