Book of the Month
What did the
art & cover TONCI ZONJIC
Size: 136 pages
Just who the hell is Jake Ellis?
I love me a good mystery story. If there is action, suspense, and a protagonist constantly on the verge of being in over his head in that mystery story then you can sign me right up, mister. I also really like when a story doesn’t aim low and insult my intelligence. I like when a story drops you in the middle of the action and gives you enough credit to figure out what’s going on along the way. Those are a lot of things to like and it’s not often that a comic book story scratches all of those itches. Who is Jake Ellis? does all of that, and more.
When it comes down to it, the plot of Who is Jake Ellis? is not overly complex or intricate. We open in Barcelona, Spain where an American mercenary spy named Jon Moore is in the midst of an operation gone bad. It’s your standard action hero spy fare: he’s outnumbered and outgunned but he uses his wits, skill, and just a bit of luck to escape the situation unharmed. But just as Jon Moore escapes it’s as if someone hits rewind on the story and we circle back around to the beginning of the scene where we find out what was really going on.
It would seem that the whole time that we watched Jon Moore expertly take down his adversaries and then escape while dodging a hail of bullets he was being guided by a mysterious voice.
The mysterious voice, as we would come to learn, of Jake Ellis.
Just who the hell this Jake Ellis is, and why he appears to Jon Moore, first as a ghostly voice and then black and white apparition, is the central mystery of Who is Jake Ellis?, so I’m not going to spoil that here. The other mystery that consumes the first volume is: who is the shadowy organization sending waves of gunmen after Jon Moore, and are they in anyway related to the fact that Moore, who is an ex-CIA analyst but not a field operative, is being guided to mercenary spy heights by the ghostly Jake Ellis?
There isn’t a whole lot of time for Jon Moore to ponder these mysteries in-depth because he’s too busy breathlessly running from one set of gunmen in one country to another set of gunmen in a neighboring country. (This story takes place in Europe and North Africa.)
The reader doesn’t get much time to ponder those questions either. Who is Jake Ellis? is a non-stop action thrill ride and writer Nathan Edmondson (currently writing Grifter for DC in the New 52) does a wonderful job of pacing and structuring this book. Every time we get a new mystery or clue to ponder, we are thrown into an action set piece. Jon Moore doesn’t really get a minute to breathe and neither do we.
I really, really enjoyed Who is Jake Ellis?. It pushed so many of my buttons and in new and interesting combinations. But there’s another element of this collection that I need to heap praise on, and that is the art from Tonci Zonjic.
I mean, wow.
I have experienced Tonci Zonjic’s art just once before in the excellent mini-series Marvel Divas from, naturally, Marvel Comics. I remember at the time praising his art on the Pick of the Week Podcast for its clean and gritty style that recalled Batman: Year One era David Mazzucchelli. Well, two years later, drawing the kind of gritty street-level story that his art is wonderfully appropriate for, and Zonjic has gotten even better. Every page of Who is Jake Ellis? was a wonder of storytelling and character acting. Sure, Zonjic’s art was great on Marvel Divas–a superhero story that was mostly about super people doing normal things. But here his art really has a chance to shine. These are the kind of books that Zonjic is absolutely meant to draw: real people (and their possible ghost advisors) in real situations facing real dangers. And throw in the fact that as a Croatian artist he lends a ton of authenticity to the European backdrop and you’ve got one hell of a gorgeous book.
If you want to talk about a guy whose style is firmly in my wheelhouse, it’s Tonci Zonjic. (As if you couldn’t tell.) The guy is now on my list of artists to watch out for. If I was putting together a list of the top artists of 2011, he’d be on it.
After hearing so many great things from people I trust, Who is Jake Ellis? was one of my most anticipated trade paperbacks of 2011. Not only did it deliver on my expectations, it exceeded them. I couldn’t put it down.
The end of Who is Jake Ellis?, Vol. 1 leaves us with some answers but also some new questions. Nathan Edmondson does a great job of crafting an ending that both works if we never get any more Who is Jake Ellis? and also if we do. Personally, I do hope we do get more Who is Jake Ellis? because I haven’t flown through a trade paperback like this one in a long while. (And I mean that in the best possible way.) It’s a thrilling and gorgeously drawn action spy story and we don’t get enough of those these days. I need more comic books like this in my life.
I need a ghostly super podcasting advisor.
It’s also available digitally to preview and purchase on Graphicly: