Saturday 12 December 2009

Review: Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale. Illustrated by Nathan Hale

Jack thinks of himself as a criminal mastermind − with an unfortunate amount of bad luck. A schemer, a trickster . . . maybe even a thief? But, of course, he’s not out for himself − he’s trying to take the burden off his hardworking mum’s shoulders. She’d understand, right? He hopes she might even be proud.
Then, one day, Jack chooses a target a little more . . . ‘giant’ than the usual, and as one little bean turns into a great big building-destroying beanstalk, his troubles really begin. But with help from Rapunzel and other eccentric friends, Jack just might out-swindle the evil giants and put his beloved city back in the hands of the people who live there . . . whilst catapulting them and the reader into another fantastical adventure.
Bestselling, award-winning author Shannon Hale teams up with husband Dean Hale and Nathan Hale (no relation) to create a second stunning graphic novel. Action and thrills define this gangster-filled and hugely entertaining retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk.(from Bloomsbury website)

Note to self..... in 2010 I really must read more graphic novels, and especially if Calamity Jack is typical of the quality of this genre being published these days. Calamity Jack is the follow-up to the authors' Rapunzel's Revenge, which I have not yet read. Coincidentally, I had put Rapunzel's Revenge on the latest order list for the school's library on Wednesday (spotted it on Amazon during a random browse) and then on Thursday I received a package from the lovely people at Bloomsbury containing, amongst other books, the brilliant Calamity Jack. I now can't wait for the library order to come through so that I can read Rapunzel's Revenge as well!

Calamity Jack, and the skilfully crafted world it is set in, is what you would get if you crossed traditional fairytales with elements of steampunk and then set the story in late 1800s America. But don't be put off by the fairytale label boys..... this is definitely not a book aimed solely at girls. There is nothing twee and girly about the fairytale style characters in this story. The giants are maneaters, the Bandersnatch spits acid, the Jabberwocky tears apart anything that flies into its airspace and the Screaming Brownies can make a person's ears bleed. Jack is no longer just the impoverished son of a single mother; in this story he is a Native American conman and thief and Rapunzel is as action-loving and talented as Lara Croft.

Action fans will not be disappointed with this book as these scenes come think and fast. Yet inbetween these action scenes the authors make a wonderful job of fleshing out the detail of the city of Shyport, Jack's character and his relationship with Rapunzel. We are also treated to a very skilfull use of dialogue throughout the story, with our hero and heroine regularly staring death and danger in the face whilst firing off witty one-liners, just like all the classic action heroes.

Add the fantastic artwork of Nathan Hale to the storytelling expertise of Shannon and Dean Hale and you have one hell of a graphic novel. Nathan Hale's illustrations are stunning and should appeal to graphic novel lovers of all ages. I will be very surprised (and disappointed) if we don't see further adventures from Jack and Rapunzel in the future. I am going to buy a copy of this book and Rapunzel's Revenge (which other reviewers suggest should be read first) for my godson as a late Christmas present (it is released in the UK on 4th January 2010), and I just know that his comic-collecting dad will be fighting to get his hands on these books as well. 


  1. Thanks for the great review! I'm the illustration half of this book. I've been spending all morning looking for early reviews and I found your site. Looks great. I'm followin.'

  2. Hi Nathan. Thanks for the comment and I'm glad you like my blog. I showed Calamity Jack to some of the boys at school today and they were equally as impressed.

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