"The Rudiments of Wisdom, part four: Too Many Jacks"
Writer: Paul Cornell
Artists: Manuel Garcia (p), Mark Farmer (i), Guru eFX (colours)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
For the latest instalment of Wisdom, Paul Cornell offers up a strange story about an invasion of London by countless alternative-reality versions of Jack the Ripper, set against the breakdown of the titular Pete Wisdom's marriage-of-convenience to his fairy wife, Tink, which itself threatens to lead to war between the human world and the fairy realm. That synopsis should give you a good idea of the tone of the book, as Cornell continues to successfully wed a surreal fantasy vibe with an ongoing plot about a team of British secret agents who are tasked with managing various supernatural threats.
The book also provides more of its enjoyable brand of humour here, with the old-fashioned dryness of the Brummie Captain Midlands and the bizarre antics of the Skrull John Lennon generating laughs (although I'm becoming convinced that Cornell is trying to win a bet for how many comedy references he can squeeze into his script - Spinal Tap's "Saucy Jack," Stu Francis' "I could crush a grape," and the Spanish Inquisition sketch from Monty Python are all alluded to here). Again, the relaxed restrictions which are offered by Marvel's MAX imprint allow the book to get away with some slightly more adult language and content, but there's nothing here that comes off as gratuitous. If there's any complaint with the issue, it's that the villain isn't given much depth or characterisation - but considering the way Mo's encounter with him looks likely to play into the plot of the next couple of issues, it's perhaps unfair to write off his significance to the series just yet.
I've grown completely accustomed to Manuel Garcia as the regular artist of the title now, and after two issues he's made the book his own just as much as previous penciller Trevor Hairsine did. His style captures the absurdity of the onslaught of alternative Rippers well, but he also does a good job with the more static scenes which see Pete Wisdom clash with his MI-6 counterparts - a conflict which carries conspiratorial undertones, and which ultimately threatens to destroy the team. Garcia's storytelling is clear, and he seems particularly good at choosing unusual perspectives from which to depict the action most effectively. In this way, he makes the most of Cornell's script, complimenting his writer in the way that a good artist should.
After a third issue which focused as much attention on its guest-star as its core cast, it's nice to see Wisdom return to a more character-centred story here, and one which feels much more like an important part of the ongoing story. I've enjoyed the way that the subplot of impending doom has been gradually built up without overshadowing the individual stories from month to month, and the cliffhanger ending of this issue suggests that the final issues will form more of a cohesive finale than the more self-contained adventures of the first few instalments. I'm looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.
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