Set in an alternative Boston where people with super powers are subject to government legislation Jack Hammer: Political Science introduces us to ex supe private eye Jack McGrisken. Mcgrisken is not a man that likes to be reminded of his super hero past & has been spending his recent days employed by a company named Technotrends to find a man named Eddie Newman. Unfortunately for Jack, Eddie is found at the end of page 1 sporting that season’s to die for look of a massive hole through the chest. Not happy at having his latest quarry turn up dead Jack decides to find out who made him that way – A quest that over the following 4 issues takes him deep into Boston’s super powered underworld before moving out into the glare of the political spotlight.
Jack Hammer comes across as a combination of 1980’s era Watchmen with a good ol’ glug of the hard boiled semi super powered shenanigans from Marvel’s Alias thrown in for good measure. While Jack Hammer may lack the thick text aspirations of both books it consistently finds ways to take a mix of ideas that we’ve all seen before but serve them up in a way that, while it may not be entirely original, it is still tangible. What’s more the characters are interesting & the story is well told. Occasionally the book can be a little text heavy, especially when it has a major plot point to deal with, leading to some interesting arrangements of text balloons & captions. However the book does its level best to keep these points to an absolute minimum, & they never interrupt the pace of the story.
It’s the depth of the story telling in particular that is one of the highlights of Jack Hammer. While the political hot potato of super hero legislation only ever seems to get mentioned in passing it lends Barrow’s world a sense of detail that implies there is far more to the subject matter here than good guys in capes punching out the bad ones. Mcgrisken himself makes for an interesting lead who, while he may have left a life of spandex behind, cannot escape the values that come with it so easily. For all the glimpses we get into the past lives of Jack & those around him though Barrows is careful to never reveal the entire picture meaning that the mystery behind what made his world the way it is remains as intriguing & enigmatic as the books central plot.
Speaking of pictures the only thing more memorable than Ionic’s name in is his artwork. The pages feel like a cross between Ex Machina era Tony Harris & recent Lenil Yu & there is a nice combination of both style & substance that suits the story perfectly. On certain occasions panels lack particular details that can leave characters looking a little like blocks of colour rather than people. This is made up for by a very attractive & broad palette though that renders Barrows Boston as a bruise, making it the perfect backdrop for McGriskin to punch his way through the swollen underbelly of corruption. As nice as Ionic’s internal pages are though, Jack Hammer is also worth picking up for the astounding cover art that divides the chapters.
At a first glance Jack Hammer: Political Science may seem like just another hard boiled private eye story with a few other elements thrown in for good measure, however readers would do well to follow its central character’s example & dig a little deeper. Underneath the veneer of familiarity is a well written well told story with artwork & colours of an equally high standard that is well worth investigating.