Wednesday Comics Woundup: Who Is Jake Ellis?

Who Is Jake Ellis #1 & #2 by Nathan Edmondson and Tonci Zonjic

Who Is Jake Ellis? is probably the hottest indie book around right now. There’s so much buzz around this book that it’s practically dripping honey.

But is it any good?

Well, yes. I think. I hate reviewing single issues of comics, as it’s a little like reviewing a movie based on the trailer. In today’s “wait for the trade” comic culture, most comic stories are designed to be spread out over 4 or more issues, and so reviewing the first two issues of something like Jake Ellis is a little tricky. But I felt compelled to weigh in on this book as it’s one of the most talked about books on the stands right now.

What is it about? In a word, espionage. It’s the story of Jon Moore, a former CIA analyst-turned-professional spy with a mysterious past. In fact, it’s so mysterious that I can’t tell you more about it in fear of spoiling it for you. And to be honest, I don’t know more than that either.

What I’m worried about is that writer Nathan Edmondson doesn’t know more than that either. Don’t get me wrong; Edmondson is quickly becoming one of my favourite up-and-coming comic writers, and I think the guy has a very promising future. My concern is that  Ellis might not be more than just a really cool idea. The first issue was probably the best first issue to a comic I’ve read all year. It had intrigue, action, and an extremely compelling plot twist. It was also a welcome introduction to the work of Tonci Zonjic, a penciler with such promise that I can’t help but compare him to artists like Michael Lark, Sean Phillips, and maybe even Darwyn Cooke.

One of these people is Jake Ellis. I think. Maybe. I'll let you know if I figure it out.

The second issue put on the brakes a bit. We did get a slight peek into the circumstances that brought Moore to his present predicament, and the story has progressed a bit. But so much of this story seems to rest on the backs of the “twist” that Edmondson concocted in the first issue. Whether or not this book ultimately succeeds is riding on how the question posed in the title of the book pays off, and one can’t help but worry that the writer has laid too many story-telling eggs lie in one basket, so to speak. High concept twists are great when you’re putting together a pitch, but it’s an invitation for disaster if that’s all you’ve got.

I’m very much hoping that there’s more to this story than the Manchurian Candidate-ish tropes that have been posited (though those have been effective) thus far. This has the potential to be the breakout book of 2011. It’s got action, drama, and so much mysterious suspense and  that one is tempted to think that Edmondson might be the lovechild of Ian Fleming and John Le Carré. The question is whether or not he can keep the pressure on, and I’m very much hoping that the answer is yes.

Rating: B+

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