Comic Book Review: Jacked written by Eric Kripke, art by John Higgins.
Disclaimer: I received this book through a Goodreads giveaway for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was offered or requested.
Josh Jaffe is hitting a mid-life crisis. His body is beginning to fall apart, he doesn’t really talk to his wife much any more, and his entire job field was rendered obsolete by new technology, so he’s been unemployed for the last six months. Nothing has turned out like he’d imagined it would as a kid, or even as a teenager. Josh’s dentist brother recommends nootropic supplements, “smart drugs” that supposedly improve cognitive function. Sounds kind of shady, but while surfing the web, Josh finds an ad for “Jacked,” which seems to speak to him.
Josh orders a supply of Jacked, and discovers that the ad was perhaps underselling the product. He can think more clearly (other than the hallucinations), has energy to spare (especially in bed), his aches and pains vanish…and he can pull a car door right off the hinges. Josh’s formerly unimpressed son starts looking up to him again! This is the good stuff.
But then Josh discovers that his next door neighbor Damon is a drug dealer that’s been beating his girlfriend Jessica. The outcome of that encounter puts Josh and Jessica on the wrong(er) side of some very bad people. Worse, the nastier side effects of Jacked start coming to the fore, and what if Josh runs out of the drug before the bad guys run out of bullets? And how will this affect Josh’s wife and child?
Eric Kripke is probably best known as the creator of the popular television series Supernatural. According to the introduction of the collected volume, he had his own mid-life crisis a couple of years ago, and his musings on that led to him proposing this comic book series to Vertigo Comics. He mentions that writing for comic books is a whole different kind of hard than writing for television, and gives much credit to John Higgins for making the script actually work on page.
One of the themes of the story is that Josh doesn’t live in a superhero world, so even though he gets some low-level superpowers, things tend not to work out as they would in a traditional superhero story. Even when he dons a costume, it only makes him look ridiculous. In the end, it’s his human abilities and connections that give Josh the ability to resolve the situation. (We do get cameos by a few classic DC heroes, and a reference to obscure series Electric Warrior.)
This is listed as for “mature readers” and has some nudity, non-graphic sex scenes, a lot of gory violence, body function humor and even more vulgar language than is called for by the plot and setting. I suspect Mr. Kripke may have gone overboard on that last one because of having had to work to TV’s broadcast standards.
One of the features I really liked was that most issues’ last pages were flash-forwards to the next issue that weren’t quite the same as the depiction in that later story. Also, all the points that were important at the climax were properly set up earlier in the series.
Josh does a fair bit of self-absorbed whining at the beginning of the series, and it takes a while for him to get his head out of his own funk. I do like that while Josh and Jessica do team up against the drug gang, it’s all about survival (and revenge on Jessica’s part) with no attraction between them at all. Josh loves his wife, and much of his motivation is being a better husband for her, even if he doesn’t understand the best way to do that.
The main villain is Damon’s brother Ray, who has a rather narrowly defined sense of morality. He takes care of family, but everyone else is fair game.
Recommended for fans of the “ordinary schlub gets superpowers and screws up big time” type of plot.