Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Francois Debois
Artist: Jean-Charles Poupard
Release Date: 9th December, 2015
For the latest in Dark Horse’s series of French graphic novel translations, we travel to London in 1889 for an ambitious new take on the well-worn tale of Jack the Ripper. The story starts off impressively enough, with Inspector Frederick Abberline pursuing the Ripper on the streets of Whitechapel in a tense, gripping game of cat-and-mouse as he follows up on several promising leads. Some turn cold, while others lead him tantalisingly close to apprehending the infamous killer, and it all seems to be coming together into a rather compelling Victorian crime thriller.
Unfortunately, somewhere around the midway point of the book, things start to get more than a little muddled and unfocused, with a dizzying barrage of twists and turns involving – among other things – hypnotic conspiracies, knocking the reader completely out of the flow of the story. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad book by any means, but it’s definitely one that performs a lot better when it stays within its comfort zone. I appreciate the ambition of the writer Francois Debois, and his desire to add something a little different to the tried-and-tested Ripper story, but the result is, sadly, a bit of a mess – in the latter stages of the book, at least.
One thing that cannot be faulted however is the absolutely stunning artwork, provided here by Jean-Charles Poupard. Possessing an impressive level of detail throughout and some truly authentic settings, his wonderfully expressive characters propel the story forwards as their investigation takes them from the back-alleys of Whitechapel to the bright, airy streets of Paris. The colour palette is fairly muted for the most part, but Poupard’s measured hand prevents things from ever becoming impenetrably dark or dull. So, while the story itself may gradually decline into a bit of a jumble, there’s no denying that this book remains an absolute visual delight from beginning to end.
Overall then, this is very much a book of two halves, with a gripping opening and a somewhat bewildering finale. Jack The Ripper is still well worth a look though, particularly for those with a taste for Victorian thrillers, and for those of us who appreciate truly great artwork.
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You can purchase Jack The Ripper HC from Turnaround Publisher Services (who generously provided the review copy of this title) via their official website.