Friday, August 13

Calamity Jack

written by Shannon and Dean Hale
illustrated by Nathan Hale
Bloomsbury 2010

Sequel to the graphic novel Rapunzel' Revenge, this time following the backstory and continuing adventures of Jack, skewering fairy tales along the way. 
Having helped Rapunzel escape, Jack's intention is to bring her back to his home city of Shyport and make restitution for the mess he's left behind.  And what a mess.  There's a reason this boy is nicknamed Calamity, and you know it's bad when even your family members wish you away so as to stop harming them in the process. 

As this is a world based on fairy tales, we learn that Jack is none other than Beanstalk Jack, with perhaps a bit of Jack-be-nimble thrown in to account for his days as a petty thief.  As the tale goes, Jack discovers the Giant in the sky – here, he's a wealthy Baron living in a floating penthouse – wherein an uncooperative golden goose is kept.  The Giant also brings his own special flour to be used by Jack's mother in her bakery to make bread.  One guess what the Giant grinds to make that flour.  Liberating the goose infuriates the Giant but Jack leaves town with a price on his head without thinking about the consequences of his actions. 

This is the backstory that leads up to Repunzel's Revenge, and serves as the introduction to Jack's return.  Hoping to show off his old town Jack finds much has changed.  The town is menaced by massive ants who destroy the town (or at least specifically targeted places in town) only to be driven off by the Giant's army.  Shyport looks like a cross between three different London's: steampunk, Dickensian, and WII.  And all of this chaos brought on by Jack's misadventure many years previous. Naturally, it's up to Jack (with the help of Rapunzel and some friends from his previous life) to set things right. 

Hinted at in the first book, and played up here, there is a romantic element between Jack and Rapunzel.  It's never really been a secret to anyone but Jack, including readers, and there's a bit of his bumbling that makes me reach the edge of that place where I want to shout "Oh, just kiss her already!"  With their budding romance at the end, and their flying off into the moonrise in a zeppelin chased by the Jabberwocky, it seems as if there will certainly be a third book in this graphic novel series.

As a follow-up to Rapunzel's Revenge this book does a nice job filling Jack's past while bringing both characters forward in a continuation of their adventures together.  It does occasionally suffer the problem inherent in many comics of bringing readers up to speed with a sort of "origins story" but with some minor reservations the sequel is as strong as its predecessor. 

And on a side note, while a certain series concerning Hunger and Games has been anxiously awaited in this house by a certain teen, this was the book my tween daughter could not wait for me to put into her hands at the beginning of summer vacation.  She could not (or would not) explain why she wanted to read it so badly, only that she was willing to even clean her room and do her own laundry in order to read it.  For what it's worth.

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