Jacked graphic novel review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Vertigo - 978-1-4012-6270-9
  • Release date: 2016
  • UPC: 9781401262709
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

It doesn’t take great psychological insight to see the creation of the superhero back in the 1930s as a wish fulfilment figure. Everything since Superman has been a little more knowing, essentially a nuanced variation, but hardly any superhero writer admits to the wish fulfilment fantasy as they build on what came before. Step forward Eric Kripke, middle aged TV writer undergoing a minor middle-aged crisis and idly wondering how he’d behave with super powers. Welcome to Jacked.

From his introduction it seems that Kripke funnels more than a little of his own concerns into Josh Jeffe, a middle aged marketing manager made redundant six months previously and unable to motivate himself any longer. Some pills purchased online transform him into what he wants to be, from where Kripke provides the journey into hell paved with good intentions, the guy we’ve come to like thrown in way beyond his depth. To begin with Josh settles for earning the respect of his family back, but as he’s basically a good hearted chap, when he’s present at a couple of incidents, he helps out. He then discovers that some pills are addictive, and not taking them has consequences, which Glenn Fabry’s cover displays nicely.

For all the autobiographical inclusions, Kripke hardly goes easy on Jeffe, which calls for John Higgins to illustrate him in assorted forms of distress, suffering the consequences of impetuosity, and he revels in it. Seriously, you don’t want to know what Higgins put in his search engine to locate the reference pictures. They’re surely the type to induce PTSD in lesser mortals. Higgins has been at this game for years, so the storytelling is exemplary. Whether it was Kripke or Higgins who decided on how to play out a scene where Jeffe meets a fellow PTA member, it’s Higgins who delivers it so perfectly.

Jacked slightly stalls when Jeffe confronts his failings in hallucinogenic symbolism, but that’s just a few pages, and Higgins supplies suitably disturbing imagery. Otherwise Kripke brings his TV writing experience to bear on a finely paced action thriller. In the end it’s the humanity that wins out, which is the point Kripke’s making, and getting there has been a lot of fun.