One of the things I appreciate most about Who Is Jake Ellis is that Nathan Edmondson was ballsy enough to make the title the series’ exact premise. By the end of Issue 2 of this popular miniseries I was screaming that question from the rooftops. As a huge fan of the first issue and its premise, my level of expectation was high for the second chapter of this slightly slanted spy drama.
I’m the type of person that always prepares myself for a letdown. I’ve had too many disappointing birthday parties to not learn how to temper my excitement to realistic expectations. So I was half-expecting Who Is Jake Ellis?#2 to lack some of the narrative punch that the first issue had in spades. In addition, there was a bunch of character work to do in the mostly straightforward and approachable initial chapter.
Thus far Nathan Edmondson has offered an interesting premise — a James Bond superspy character with a shadowy, even ghostly advisor who seems to know the opponent’s next move — but not much else. The characters only briefly introduced themselves between the gunfire and secret agent lingo and, after a promising narrative foundation, the plot still needed careful development. The reader needed to know more, but just enough to keep us reading.
Edmonson does a great job of carrying that momentum into this issue and hitting us with a lot of details, some hints and — most importantly — character work. I had some hopes for this series, and one of them was the dynamic between Jake Ellis and ex-CIA analyst Jon Moore. The nature of their mysterious relationship felt underplayed previously, and I expected to see them actually interact beyond advisor/reactor relationship that we’ve seen so far. What happens when the brain disagrees with the body? We get our answer here, and it’s very entertaining.
The basic evaluation is this — it’s pretty good so far, but it’s all built on a level of expectation. The plot is promising without being extremely complex and the characters are fun, even if they are a little watered down or archetypical. However, if the plot doesn’t deliver on its promises, and these characters eventually do not pan out or develop, then the setup won’t pack the same punch it does for me now. It’s a dangerous game hiding so much from the reader and going with a minimalist approach, but it’s working so far for those exact reasons.
One thing that’s entirely effective is the art of Tonci Zonjic. I have to refrain from drooling all over the comic’s pages in awe. His style and effort are at least half of the lofty four-and-a-half bullet rating. His dim, sometimes murky style meshes superbly with the subject matter and he’s not lacking in detail, although the panels and images are somewhat blocky. The creative choices to separate Jake Ellis from the world around him are excellent and there’s a certain purposeful mildness to the environment that is akin to the Bourne movies. Zonjic use of shading and hue carry this book when the story doesn’t. I suspect this artist is on his way to being a creative force in the medium we all know and love.
My questions and wants were remarkably satisfied, and the art couldn’t be more solid. I can’t promise you it’ll all pay off, but for right now it’s an enjoyable ride.