Jack by David Hopkins, reviewed by Matt Summers
With the arrival of October, many countries around the world begin to celebrate Halloween. What better time to celebrate the ghouls, goblins, witches and demons that roam this earth better than with a good webcomic? There are many webcomics out there that address the issues of heaven and hell, demons and deities, and good vs. evil. However, few of them approach the subject quite as well as Jack does.
Let this be a warning to you now: Jack is about as Not Safe For Work as you can get. If issues like rape, drug use, swearing, graphic sexual acts, incest, cannibalism, nudity, savage violence, and images of hell bother you, then you need to stay far, far away from David's comic. However, if you can look past all of that to the story underneath, you will find a hell (pun intended) of a good read waiting for you.
It makes sense why David not only approaches these subjects, but also embraces them tightly and makes them his own; the comic is about Hell, aitch-ee-double-ell with an emphasis on eternal torment. Hell is not a nice place to be at all, and nor should it be. However, I doubt even some of the most religious of factions on this earth could come up with a vision of Hell quite as deliciously evil as the hell in Jack.
Sinners are not handled with kid gloves in Hell. However, where other comics might portray the denizens of hell simply bathing in fire for all eternity, David takes things one step further. Hell in David's world makes a fire bath look like a walk in the park; souls are eaten, tortured, raped, beaten, and ripped apart only to heal daily and go through the cycle again. The residents of Hell delight in torturing their visitors, and the images from Jack can be quite disturbing indeed.
However graphically disturbing the comic might be, the storylines within each chapter of Jack are hauntingly appropriate. In one, a teen goes on a shooting spree at school (reminiscent of the Columbine school shootings) before turning the gun on himself. After death, he is forced to face the students he's just killed, and understandably they are slightly enraged. His reasoning for murdering the students comes full circle in the end, as his eternal punishment is filled with condescending laughter and cruel viciousness.
Almost every storyline in Jack plays out the same way; a sinner sins, dies, and then must face his or her final judgment. And rarely does that judgment go well for the sinner; an animal abuser finds himself in an eternity surrounded by very *ahem* enthusiastic dolphins, for example.
However, the comic's main focus is not on the sinners themselves, but rather on the one that helps sinners on their way to their eternity. Jack is the reaper, the man charged for eternity to move the souls on their path after death. Jack is efficient… many souls run or try to fight back upon seeing him, to no avail. However, as the comic has progressed, the story has begun to focus on the changes within Jack himself.
In the story arc XVIII, entitled Frightened Virgil, we revisit a prior storyline; specifically, the one mentioned above. Virgil is a survivor of the massacre of the school killings, a young man that could have stopped Brian before he went on his murderous rampage. Virgil was in a prime position; he had the drop on Brian, he had a weapon and surprise on his side. Yet, when Brian killed another of his friends in cold blood, Virgil froze and was unable to stop Brian.
Eventually, down the road, the guilt of Virgil's inaction leads to his suicide and his meeting with Jack. However, Jack does not feel that Virgil deserves to go to hell (suicide is an automatic ticket to hell in most every religion) and tries to reassure Virgil as to which sin he's being condemned for.
However, Virgil refuses to accept that he wasn't the one to kill those other kids, and would end up going to an eternity of hell. Jack refuses to bring him to his final judgment, instead forcing an angel to open up a suffrage zone (an isolated area where no angel or demon can see what's happening inside of it) in order to force Virgil to face the real reason he was dead.
In the end of the story arc, Virgil finally understands why he's where he is, and accepts his death. By doing so and being able to accept forgiveness for his sin, Virgil is granted a rather unique opportunity; he escapes hell and is granted permission to return to earth, to start life over and try to avoid the mistakes he made in his last life.
The storyline also spotlights the contrasting emotions of Jack. For a man who's job is to simply lead souls to their rightful place, he has an amazing range of emotion. This storyline also begins to highlight onto the reason that Jack is who he is, and begins the struggle for Jack to follow in Virgil's path and accept forgiveness for his own sins on this world.
That is where Jack absolutely shines as an amazing comic; each story arc has been deeper than the last, showing the politics and struggles of those that control heaven and hell. Each story has a moral to it; a massively deeper meaning that gives the reader a glimpse into his or her own soul.
Jack is philosophical. Jack is intense. Jack is violent, sadistic, cruel, merciless, and never holds back a punch. Jack is also perhaps one of the absolute best comics on the web today. It takes an iron stomach to be able to see some of the images that David presents to the reader, but if you can handle it, you'll be hard pressed to disagree.