Review by Woodrow Phoenix
“Crime is naughty, and criminals are on the whole quite silly,” announces Ludwig Lovegarden, “famed author and leading criminologist” who introduces Jinx Freeze in a black and white TV broadcast straight from the 1960s. He’s interrupted mid-monologue and thrown off the air by an impatient producer. As you begin reading you soon realise he’s outlined the absurdist style that this book is going to push to its limits over the next ninety pages, in a narrative that reads like a relay race where one protagonist hands off the story to the next.
Writer/artist Hurk has a strongly design-led approach melding bold 1950s and 1960s shapes and period typography with sophisticated layouts and unusual colour combinations. His graphic style has a very contemporary tumblr-esque sensibility, remixing familiar elements into funny but vaguely bleak new commentary. It’s easy not to notice the subtle downbeats while you’re distracted by bizarre TV detective parodies, quotes, references to a myriad of high and low cultural touchstones, and long-dead celebrities reasserting themselves. A hijacked séance to scare tearaways onto the path of righteousness is pure Carry On hilarity through a Tales of The Unknown filter.
King Gianthead Fighter Policeman O.X. is, exactly as his name explains, a cyborg crimefighter with a hugely oversized turquoise head. Unfortunately he is being plagued by waking dreams so vivid as to make him unsure if he’s awake or asleep at any given moment, and too confused to deal with new and mysterious crime in his locality. Not only has the solid gold sculpture ‘Minerva’s Nanny’ had one of its arms stolen while on display at the Riviera Gallery, but also customers are eagerly going through the doors of the instagram-friendly ‘Great Exhibition of 11851’ and vanishing without trace. What can be behind these disappearances? Can private detective Marge Maggiore get to the bottom of it all before she runs out of wigs, hats and glasses for her undercover stakeouts?
Jinx Freeze’s cast of oddballs, weirdos, creeps, kooks and sociopaths are so numerous and ridiculous that it takes a little concentration to keep up with the clues that are generously layered over jokey episodes and strange interludes. The carefully plotted throughline comes together in the final pages and a ‘Narrative Update Page’ placed before the final act will help. You may have to backtrack to see just where you were thrown off track by Clarsley the Lion, Bionics Ward 30, Loghead & Gunther or the beguiling Giant Queen Robot Fighter Detective 1, activated to carry on where King Gianthead Fighter Policeman O.X. left off.
The narrative density of Hurk’s hilarious and scabrous writing asserts its Englishness to a degree that may exclude readers from other countries as strongly as it delights those who recognise all the pop cultural commentaries from years long past. But that’s no different from the army of authors writing in the USA whose books don’t come with glossaries either. The dynamic visual and verbal jokes are packed into these pages with wit, style and enough eye-popping logo designs to fill the bumper Christmas issue of Radio Times. If you don’t get all the references it won’t affect your enjoyment of the corkscrew narrative; Jinx Freeze still succeeds as a stream-of-consciousness, fevered crime comic from an alternate universe. Just let it all wash over you like another of King Gianthead Fighter Policeman’s lucid dreams.