Combat Jacks #1 – Indie Review
The major comic companies get enough reviews and press, it’s time for the creator-owned and indie series to get some love and judgment. Indie review takes up-and-coming indie and creator-owned series and puts them through the review process so you can confidently support the best of the small press and passion driven projects in the comic industry.
Title: Combat Jacks #1
Writer: Mark McKenna (Exiles, Star Wars: The Old Republic)
Penciler: Jason Baroody (Clockmaker Act Two, Jesus Hates Zombies)
Inker: Mark McKenna
Colorist: Kate Finnegan (Penny For Your Soul, The Legend of Oz)
Letterer: John Hunt (Black Lagoon, Battle Angel Alita)
Publisher: Banana Tale Press
Number of Issues: 1 (one-shot)
Page Count: 24
The Review Bit
The plot of Combat Jacks sounds like it belongs to a bad B-movie on the SyFy channel, but it is far more enjoyable. From the creative mind of Mark McKenna, the well respected comic inker and Inkwell Awards Hall of Fame recipient, comes a great comic story with a back story that proves IndieGoGo can help bring good comics to life. As we reported earlier this spring, Combat Jacks was an independent comic McKenna was raising money to produce by offering some cool incentives, including a chance to be in the book (readers might notice some of the winners names, like JT Rodgers, Adam Ferguson, & Chris Buchners popping up as marines in the comic). McKenna managed to raise $515 over his $3,000 goal and has made good on the contributions by releasing a really high quality $3.99 comic, with glossy cover and all.
The story of Combat Jacks seems like a mixture of an old EC horror title with Starship Troopers or Halo. It tells of a group of marines sent to the planet Maia, a new planet that had found its way into our solar system, on a rescue/information retrieval mission. The planet Maia was setup to be terraformed under the labor of several death row inmates, but communication had been lost for sometime, leading to the Interplanetary Security Force being sent in for clean up or recovery. The marines make landfall in a ship that reminds me a little of Firefly’s The Serenity, and prepare to evaluate the terraforming base full tilt. Upon arrival, they notice the planet is covered in gourd like vegetation similar to Earth’s Pumpkins. It’s not long before the marines are attacked by this army of pumpkin like vegetation either. These highly trained and heavily armed marines fight back, but the pumpkins do some lethal damage before the marines can move on. Slowly the team makes their way to the base with a high loss of life, discovering one remaining prisoner left alive. It was a funny surprise to see the prisoner’s likeness being that of the author/inker, Mark (albeit a little more badass). Once the marines make contact with this survivor the story quickly becomes even more in the style of an old EC comic, with some humorously horrifying twists at the end that must be read to be properly enjoyed.
While McKenna might be known as a great inker, he is certainly a surprisingly good writer too. The story and dialogue of Combat Jacks is quite enjoyable, making me wish there were more comics like this sadly rare done-in-one sci-fi/horror story. McKenna properly grasps the language of a group of marines, being both vulgarly hilarious and yet showing a sign of strong camaraderie amongst the soldiers. The narration holds a similar tone, with great gems like the description of protagonist Dorothy A. Darling (who already has too great a name) as “not only a piece of ass, but a bad ass to boot!” Furthermore, it surprises me how many cheesy, yet still funny, gourd and pumpkin jokes one can make in a 24-page comic. There are no epic moments in the story that you’ll be blogging about for years, but it is a fun and laid back piece that doesn’t take itself too seriously, just as anything trying to exist in this style should.
Jason Baroody puts together some really nice art that McKenna inks over, with definable characters, cool accessories, and some very memorable looking monster/aliens. There are some moments where his characters appear a little too smug facially, just as you might find from a B-actor trying to play these roles in a film, but in other panels the emotions expressed are just brilliant. Adding to the book’s art is colorist Kate Finnegan, who really helps capture the mood and locations depicted on the pages. Finnegan does a great job with lighting the different locations that otherwise might have had very simple backgrounds due to just being military ships, bases, and a baron planet. Unfortunately her color shading on the characters faces runs a little thick at times, but in every other way the colors are strong and vivid, making the art truly pop. Finally, a nod has to be given to the keen lettering of John Hunt, who gives some awesome and striking sound effects alongside solid colored caption boxes.
*Note: The preview art shown in this article does not contain the final colors used in Combat Jacks #1.
The Rating Bit
Combat Jacks is a very fun and quirky sci-fi/horror comic that fits perfectly with the Halloween season. Being a quick done-in-one story, you get everything you’ll need for just $3.99, and while it may not be the most amazing comic you’ve ever picked up, it is definitely worth picking up. We have to give Combat Jacks #1 a very loving 8 out of 10 and hope to see more comics with this enjoyability and simplicity in the independent publishing realm. If you didn’t pick up a copy earlier this month in comic stores, you can find Combat Jacks online at CombatJacks.com
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