Publisher: Literati Press Comics
Written and Illustrated By: Nick Hermes
Release Date: 2nd June 2021
Silas and his father run a lucrative gold mine, and their claim is jealously coveted by the local townsfolk and bandits alike, leaving them to have to fend off claim jumpers on a regular basis. After Silas’ father is brutally murdered under mysterious circumstances, he enlists the help of an old family friend to hunt the killer, which he is starting to believe may be a demon escaped from hell.
Black Jack Demon is pitched as a genre-breaking Western thriller, and it certainly seems to live up to this claim, bringing the styles and delivery of a good ol’ fashioned revenge Western, and adding a supernatural twist in the form of a fugitive demon who inhabits the skins of the people it slaughters.
There is something inherently unlikeable about Silas. His family are not well thought of in the town, whatever petty jealousies might initially seem to motivate them; even the people he turns to for help appear to only be interested in a pay check. This actually serves the story quite well, and there are plenty of examples of a protagonist with few redeeming qualities being led on a quest for vengeance by a world-weary and equally irredeemable character who provides life lessons along the way and a path to redemption.
There’s a good pace to this book, with Silas coming across as impatient, rash, inexperienced, and desperate to chase after his fathers killer. This is tempered by Humphrey’s experience and general world weariness. The contrast between the two gives a good sense of tension throughout.
This story both reads and is illustrated in a manner that reminds me a bit of the work of Charles Burns; it’s definitely a narrative marching to its own beat, and while it is clearly both a western thriller and horror movie, it’s got a quirky edge to it that just keeps you slightly off kilter.
For me, there’s quite a chunk of the first issue that needs expanding on, and I did feel like I was missing something, possibly because we jump straight in to the night of murder of Silas’ father with almost no preamble. This doesn’t spoil the narrative as such but it did take me out of the story a bit while I tried to fill in some blanks. I am assuming, based on the way the first issue has been paced that we’ll get this development over the coming issues.
I do absolutely love the artwork in this issue, and for me it’s the star of the show. it’s got a very 1940s/50s feel to it, but as I said earlier, it’s also has something of Charles Burns’ work about it that gives it a really cool, contemporary edge. The colouring is also superb. Ok, not every panel lands for me, but there are some panels that are little works of pop-art genius that I’d seriously consider hanging on my wall.
This isn’t quite as cohesive as I would like, but it’s a great premise that shows some real promise, and has some cracking artwork to support it.
The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek