Webcomics Weekly is back in your life with the return of “Lavender Jack.” The last time we left our hero, things weren’t going so well. His allies had been shot. His wife, the real mastermind of the operation, has been kidnapped. Things weren’t going well for Ol’Jack, so how will he cope?
By Dan Schkade (art and history) Jenn Manley Lee (coloring)
Reviewed by Michael Mazzzacane
“Lavender Jack” is back and I thought it was time to do a little check-in on this long-running series. This last narrative episode was released was Ep 112, December 6, 2021, followed by a Q&A episode shortly after. After catching up with the series, the series ended on a thrilling cliffhanger during the origin of the Nightjar flashback art “The Isle of Pilaf” as a young Endo Gall stood above the wreck. That wasn’t the end of Nightjar’s story with its conclusion in the following episode 113 on September 19, 2022. I can’t help but feel like leaving for the break from the Ep 113 would have been more if not effective (since the image of Gall standing there is more typical of a cliffhanger) more satisfying. But obviously something happened in the production of the tape and these things are happening. There is some satisfaction in earning Episode 113 after such a waiting period.
With Nightjar in the Lavender League, the gang begins to tie things together as they enter their final act. Everyone comes together both the good guys and the bad guys, or as Mimley cunningly puts it “all the exes are back and why look at that, they’re all damn bad guys now.” They really have that effect on people, the Lavender League. It’s like reverse Goku syndrome. Goku fights you and you become best friends. Here you meet Lavender Jack and Co. who is probably exposed and put in jail/faces some kind of social punishment and comes back looking for the most melodramatic revenge. It does, however, help reinforce the sense of finality the series is heading towards.
One of the joys of returning to the series is re-reading Schkade’s pun. He rubs against the fourth wall a bit as Jack tries to threaten Giddy, the first boy he ultimately kissed. Filled with such righteous aim, Mimley-Jack doesn’t even attempt a playful jab, just a direct jugular threat. Schkade sells this brutal goal by bringing it closer to Lilac Jack aka Not-Lord Hawthorne with a hunched, rounded, imposing figure, draped in harsh shadows. In retrospect, this seems like the first indication that something was wrong with this senseless rescue operation. Even when Jack says something witty about God and Science watching him as he threatens to cripple Giddy, it’s a violent threat trying to be violent in a way that Jack isn’t. not. He’s a vigilante for sure, but a vigilante who follows a traditional visual depiction that actively tries to undermine the violence he inflicts on people. The fact that he is trying to be violent is a sign that something is wrong.
It’s a good example of visual storytelling that was otherwise purely dialogical, mostly told through dialogue in the previous episode as Johnny Summer tries to talk Jack out of being so reckless. The visual clues are all there with Mimley’s sleep-deprived state, but the sequence is mostly built around the conversation between Summer and Mimley, the latter being in a manic state.
The pacing of Jack on the run could have been a bit boring, but Schkade manages to make the back and forth visually interesting, especially the long opening sprint at the top of episode 116. This batch of episodes has all solid panoramic panels. that make good use of scrolling to create a unified sense of space. A unified sense of space that is undermined as Jack begins to tire and succumb to the poison Lady Hawthorne has coated his beards. A poison that almost made me believe that the revelation of the Black Note was a hallucination! But it’s actually a very real comeback, the whole gang is really getting back together.
The reveal of how the Black Note survived seems a bit yada-yada’d, I have to go back and see how it was originally told visually. The same goes for Duchess Okoyo and Sisterhood’s subjugation to Lady Hawthorne, it all sort of happened in gutter space moves. It’s not terrible, but it looks like something I forgot about being set up during the layoff or something that was just meant to happen and is a little noisy in its placement.
On a slight visual note, it was fun to see the strip work in what appears to be a reference to Batman’s early design, complete with the red wings and flying suit. The character is closer to Waid-Silver Age “Daredevil” but Batman is sort of the king of vigilantes at this point.