Monday, 14 December 2009

Calamity Jack by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, Illustrated by Nathan Hale

4th January 2010, Bloomsbury
144 pages, Paperback
Review Copy

Graphic Novel, Fantasy

Cushions: 2
Daggers: 2
Pencils: 5
Yunaleska's recommended rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Summary from Bloomsbury

Bestselling, award-winning author Shannon Hale teams up with husband Dean Hale and Nathan Hale (no relation) to create a second stunning graphic novel. Action and thrills define this gangster-filled and hugely entertaining retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk

Jack thinks of himself as a criminal mastermind − with an unfortunate amount of bad luck. A schemer, a trickster . . . maybe even a thief? But, of course, he’s not out for himself − he’s trying to take the burden off his hardworking mum’s shoulders. She’d understand, right? He hopes she might even be proud.
Then, one day, Jack chooses a target a little more . . . ‘giant’ than the usual, and as one little bean turns into a great big building-destroying beanstalk, his troubles really begin. But with help from Rapunzel and other eccentric friends, Jack just might out-swindle the evil giants and put his beloved city back in the hands of the people who live there . . . whilst catapulting them and the reader into another fantastical adventure.

I was more than a little happy at getting a graphic novel through the post last week. This is the first one I've ever owned to be the size of nearly an A4 sheet of paper. The story of Jack and the Beanstalk was never my favourite fairy tale as a child, but that was primarily due to the fact that even then I preferred female protagonists. This retelling of classic tale changed my mind completely.

Gangsters and the wild west are a genre which I haven't really touched before now. Jack isn't really a 'good' boy - he's a con artist with a little pixie, Pru, as a partner. He isn't entirely bad for his heart is in the right place. He loves his mother dearly and wants a better life for her. That might be the reason he uses for stealing from the giant. The giant wasn't all too happy with his home being crushed by the beanstalk, so off goes Jack into exile, without Pru. He meets up with Rapunzel, who had her own adventure in the earlier book of Rapunzel's Revenge.

Rapunzel is the reason why I enjoyed Calamity Jack. She is cool. Her long hair is now a weapon (not attached to her head) - she uses it for a lasso, for swinging herself and Jack across wide gaps. She isn't a heroine you'd mess with. Which is good because Jack doesn't really have special powers. Apart from Pru, who after being annoyed with him for leaving her, agrees to help defeat the giants. That was the funniest part of the story - who would mess with a swam of pixies (Pru's friends) as they flew up the building to distract the brownies (who are chained to the building and create quite a racket?) Those pixies are scary!

The inclusion of Rapunzel had me in stitches, and although I still think Jack is an idiot, he does have redeeming qualities. He tries his best to put right the past. He worries that Rapunzel might not like the shadier part of his life, but her reaction shows that he underestimated her character completely.

Graphic novels are by nature illustration orientated. The colour scheme used fits the style of the wild west. There is so much expression in the character's faces that often words weren't needed. I love how the speech bubbles sometimes had broken lines to indicate fear or whispers. The style is distinct and I think I'd recognise it on its own without knowing who the illustrator was.

Calamity Jack may be about Jack, but for me Rapunzel stole the show. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to more like it. (And more Rapunzel, who rules!)

Shannon and Dean Hale have a website here.

Nathan Hale (really not related to the authors) has his own site here.

I currently don't have another book similar to this one, so I can't give another recommendation.


Nathan said...

Thanks for the awesome review. I'm the illustrator for Calamity Jack--I'm ashamed to say I've been googling for early reviews. I like your site. Can I add that I have a site too (to go along with Shannon and Dean's) I'm at where I run a weekday webcomic, as well as updates on Rapunzel, Jack and my other projects. Again, thanks for the review!

Yunaleska said...

I've amended it :) Glad you like the review - I'm checking out your site now.

Nathan said...