I followed up the very fun Rapunzel’s Revenge (review) with its sequel, Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale, a graphic novel illustrated by Nathan Hale. This installment covers the backstory of sidekick Jack, and goes on to a new adventure for Jack and Rapunzel.
The first book is set out in a kind of fantasy Wild West. It turns out that Jack is from the big city, where he was a kind of petty thief and conman, accompanied by a pixie sidekick named Prudence. Things went bad when Jack tried to rob a local giant, accidentally demolishing Jack’s mother’s bakery with a badly-placed beanstalk. He fled the city, vowing to earn the money to rebuild his mother’s bakery…and that’s where we met him in Rapunzel’s Revenge.
In the present day here, Jack and Rapunzel are heading back to the city, only to discover that crazy ant creatures have been invading, while the giant has taken control of the city. Conspiracies are afoot, chaos ensues, and there is even the occasional romantic problem as they confront the crisis.
It’s a funny thing about this graphic novel. It falters in some places, mostly at the beginning, but on the whole finds its feet and is ultimately a fun ride. It started out a bit slow for me–we go back through Jack’s entire life history, with a series of earlier schemes, and they were simultaneously each too brief to be interesting, and cumulatively went on too long. Once the story gets into the time after the previous book, it picks up a lot, and gains momentum as it goes through the adventure.
I had similar feelings about Jack’s character. He was almost entirely light and funny in the previous book, and gains more depth here. That sounds good…but initially I wasn’t enjoying a more serious Jack. He was good as a comic sidekick. This also works itself out as the adventure goes on, maybe because the focus becomes more on the action and less on the soul-searching.
Jack finds himself with a rival for Rapunzel’s romantic interest, and I have mixed feelings about that too. I don’t precisely object to it as a plot device, but it is somewhat annoying when that was apparently resolved at the end of the last book! The aggravating part may be that we’re back with Jack trying to figure out how to even confess a romantic interest…when that already happened. You can’t tell a girl you love her for the first time twice. Simple math. You kind of just have to go with it. And I do enjoy how much Jack appreciates Rapunzel’s awesomeness.
The multitudes of magical creatures in the city are a lot of fun, from pixies to a Jabberwock. I had a little trouble getting a sense of the giants’ size–which seems odd, as you wouldn’t think scale would be a problem with drawings.
As you can see, the book does have some flaws–but it also carries on a lot of the best parts of the previous book. The characters are still very strong–Rapunzel is still awesome, and we meet some new characters who are interesting too. And there’s a lot of humor, funny moments and occasional silliness.
At its best, this book is as good as Rapunzel’s Revenge. Unfortunately, it’s not always at its best. If you enjoy the first one, though, I think its worth the read for the second–especially since I think it only took me an hour to read it!
Authors’ Site: http://www.shannonhale.com
Buy it here: Calamity Jack