Written by Cheryl Cottrell-Smith
Title: The Saga of the Jack of Spades, No. 1
Publisher: Nothing Works Entertainment Inc.
Publication Date: November 25, 2015
Written by Chase Kantor
Pencil and inks by Daniel Schneider
Colours by Sabrina O’Donnell
Letters by Sylvia Moon
Produced by Jared Kantor
What it’s about: The Saga of the Jack of Spades is a unique take on playing card fantasy, in which a kingdom has been fractured into four territories, each belonging to a family based on a playing card suit: the Diamonds, the Clubs, the Hearts, and the Spades. Each family is advised by a member of the Four of a Kind, wise men tasked with keeping the peace in each of their respective territories.
The main story revolves around Jack/John, the prince of Spade Kingdom. The comic begins with reference to and an appearance by the Knave of Spades, known by most as an outcast and a renegade. We almost immediately meet this Knave as an eyepatched redheaded man named Jack, but despite many mysterious hints it isn’t exactly clear what he’s working towards.
We do know that he’s being chased by the Euchre. Members of this gang are perfectly outfitted in joker/jester garb to suit the history of their namesake (Euchre is a trick-taking card game that makes use of the joker card).
The story then reverts to three years earlier, in which we see a Knave of Spades being executed while Jack sits his seat as the king’s son and Minister of Executions. This Jack, sans eyepatch, is nothing more than a spoiled, misogynistic playboy. He doesn’t take his role seriously and he manipulates people (including sexually) for his own pleasure. Almost immediately after meeting him, though, the reader gets some insight into threads of Jack’s discontent. He has something to prove—it’s only through the threat of betrayal and incarceration that he can take initiative to change his situation.
The story sets up Jack as he embarks on the adventure that will change him into the man we saw at the beginning of the comic—three years after he leaves his father’s kingdom.
The good: The artwork is stunning. Although drawn and coloured with a modern edge, it paints a colourful and lively scene of what can only be called a medieval-themed era (public executions and all). The style is clean and eye-catching.
The fact that the comic embraces card mythology is a huge draw. From the Royal Spade family, to the pesky Prince of Hearts, to the mysterious Euchre faction that lives in the woods, Kantor and co. have made clear efforts to incorporate the culture of playing cards into a story hinged on betrayal, political intrigue, and adventure.
And, of course, there’s Jack’s sister. She’s a blond girl in a blue dress…and her name is Alice. The land of Jack of Spades certainly isn’t Wonderland, but the Queen of Hearts is biding her time in there somewhere. And, as we hear during a secret council between the King of Spades and his advisors, the Queen of Hearts is “a harlot with a man’s ambition.” Sounds about right.
Finally, it’s local. Written, drawn, coloured, and published by some of Edmonton’s most talented creators and hinged on an Indiegogo campaign that allowed them the means of publication. Supporting local talent is easy when the result is something as cool as Jack of Spades.
The bad: I’ve very few negative things to say about this comic, other than (despite being a normal length for a first issue) me wishing it was longer. There were moments when I could’ve used more of a narrative voice to guide me between scenes, but I never felt that I was lost or that the story made an abrupt change between one scene and the next. I’m sure that as the storyline becomes more complex, a narrative voice will be employed more frequently to bring readers up to speed.
Read this comic if: You like fiction that’s deeply versed in fable and lore, medieval settings, and frequent use of dry wit and cynical humour. Having just finished reading Bill Willingham’s Fables series, I couldn’t help but see similarities in Jack of Spades. It’s the same style of cheeky comedy, with plenty of political unrest and characters based very loosely on characters in mythology and legend. It’s an ambitious first comic—and I was very sad to see the first issue come to an end. With such a talented group behind Jack of Spades, I’ve no doubt that the story will continue to spin out into narrative and visual complexities both charming and compelling.
Learn more about the people behind The Saga of the Jack of Spades and the Indiegogo campaign that started it all in Matt’s interview with the comic’s creators this past August.
Visit the Jack of Spades website.
View the comic’s Indiegogo page.
Follow Jack of Spades on Twitter.
Like the Jack of Spades page on Facebook.
All images courtesy of Chase Kantor and Nothing Works Entertainment Inc.