Jupiter Jet #2 Review; Jet Pack, Raygun and All Heart
Jupiter Jet #2 “Gruesome Grifters Will Face My Might!”
Written by Jason Inman, Ashley Victoria Robinson
Line art by Ben Matsuya
Colors by Mara Jayne Carpenter
Color flats by Tori Ridley
Letters by Taylor Esposito
Covers Ben Matsuya, Jenn St Onge
Published by Action Lab
What’s a retro style jet pack hero without a ray gun? The second issue of this fun filled all-ages romp begins with our charming teenage heroine Jacky Johnson, owner of aforementioned jet pack powered by a mysterious power source, receiving her raygun from her mostly competent scientist/inventor/partner and little brother Chuck Johnson.
From there we set off and follow the orphaned Johnsons on more endearing, playful and inept attempts at adventure that we saw in the debut issue. Jacky and Chuck are not typical characters and Jupiter Jet isn’t what you might expect from the description; Jacky and Chuck are portrayed in a bumbling yet lovable way that often leads to their exploits going pear-shaped rather quickly (or immediately). This gives the book an energetic unpredictability and prevents the Johnsons from being one dimensional feel good tropes. Despite the fantastic plot and exaggerated cartoonishness of the art, these characters feel real and you can’t help but like them.
As the Johnsons attempt to protect their family business from gangsters and uncover the mystery of the power sources that led to the death of their father we have the encroaching, otherworldly threat of the wonderfully named villain Praeter Pluto and his robotic assistants The Legates. Pluto, a sort of pulpy and over the top incarnation of Dean Motter’s Mister X or one of the Strangers from Dark City, pops off the page with delicious devilish dread. Each scene with Pluto pulls you more into the mystery of this universe and he becomes not only an effective villain but a character as equally compelling as our heroes.
The art by Ben Matsuya is simply wonderful. Pulling equally from various animation influences (Warner Bros, Disney) as well as story telling beats and design ideas that seem to incorporate everything from classic pulp sci-fi to Golden Age comics to classic cartoon strips. From this blender of influences we get a synthesis of aesthetics and what emerges is something that despite being obviously retro-fetishistic is fresh, alive and unique. Matsuya’s ability as a cartoonist is exemplary. His facial expressions and gestures are bold, expressive and hilarious. The only comparison I could make with a contemporary work is the often brilliant cartooning that Max Sarin does with Giant Days.
Two scenes are worthy of highlighting. One has Chuck distracting the elderly owner of a diner from the fact that Jacky is slithering under the counter tops to place money in a tip jar. It is an exquisite example of comic book story telling in just two panels. And a flashback scene in which an impetuous young Jacky is shown at the beach with her father as she has a terrifying experience many of us who grew up going to the beach can sympathize with. It’s a scene that works simultaneously as laugh out loud funny and frightening.
The color team of Mara Jane Carpenter and Tori Ridley do equally impressive work, adding the exact right color palette through the entire book to give it the fun animation feel and works in perfect tandem with the line work and script. Scenes involving Pluto are either given darker tone or drenched in red so that we get a real sense of malice and weight whenever he is present. This shows a level of care toward color as story telling device and expression of character that I wish we saw more of in today’s comics.
Rounding out the team we have the lettering of Taylor Esposito who is simply one of the best working in the business today. Often, lettering is either the unsung hero or invisible breaker of a book. Esposito’s word balloons, sound effects and titles are always perfectly placed so as not to intrude too much on a scene while adding just the right amount of flavor to the story’s aesthetic. In particular I love the choice of the Art Deco for the location titles.
Jupiter Jet is a true unicorn of a comic book. It’s an all ages book that is truly ALL AGES. Whether its a little kid picking up their first comic, a Disney or Warner Bros animation fan or someone who loves classic comic strips, all will find something to love here. It’s a fantastic pulp style adventure that isn’t overly tropey. It’s retro yet feels vitally current. It’s fun and immediate but not shallow. But for me as an adult comics fan what really stands out is how pure of heart it is without being patronizing, placating or condescending. This is a feel good story in the best possible way.
Week after week, year after year I read countless violent, deconstructionist, cynical and “gritty” comic books and Jupiter Jet is one of the most uplifting breaths of fresh air I’ve read in a long time. Don’t take my word for it, writers like Tom King, Brendan Fletcher and Sam Humphries have already touted the virtues of this book as well. So start picking up this book and let your heart soar!