Mysteries in the Wild West with ‘Black Jack Ketchum #1’ (Review)
Written by: Brian Schirmer
Art by: Claudia Balboni
This week features a new title from Image Comics, Black Jack Ketchum. Schirmer and Balboni’s title begins with a plot that we’ve all come to recognize. The protagonist, Tom Ketchum, is mistaken for someone he isn’t and blamed for something he hadn’t done. Someone with a similar name and looks has committed numerous murders and robberies. However, Schirmer and Balboni deviate from this pattern as the world they’ve created is a mixture of history and magic. Ketchum is pursued by mystical beings whose origins and goals are yet to be revealed.
While the plot does offer promise, the first issue gives the audience plenty of questions but not any answers. How does Ketchum teleport between saloons? Who are the mysterious Dusters hunting him? Who were the Bank, the Rail Baron, and the Rancher? What role will the authoritative figures revealed to be in control come to play? At the moment, Ketchum’s only goal is to clear his name, which might futile considering that there are bigger plans in store for him. Accompanied by his talking revolver and a young mute girl, whose name and past we don’t know, Ketchum decides to seek out the man that tarnished his name.
While the plot does hop scotch around, the writing and art are consistent throughout the issue. Schirmer’s writing does well to capture the mysterious and cryptic nature of the plot. In addition to Schirmer’s well thought out writing, Balboni’s art does well to illustrate the action and ethereal planes that Kethum finds himself in. The visual elements of this issue are solid and provide artistic consistency.
It’s too early to tell what this series will yield. We’ve got a lot of questions and very few answers, but this is only the first issue. The shadowy figures lurking in the background, in combination with Ketchum’s hunt for his doppelganger, certainly push forward the momentum of the plot. I’m excited to see where the creative team will take this, but hopefully the narrative will move towards a more linear fashion. How Ketchum was, at one moment, being chased by the nebulous Dusters to being swallowed by a hellish steam engine—I’m not quite sure.