Three issues in and Garth Ennis’s latest comic, “Jennifer Blood,” is looking like a rare misfire. Too light and empty to be read seriously, not funny or biting enough to be read as a comedy, it falls somewhere between in the land of mediocrity. The idea of a housewife acting a violent, Punisher-esque vigilante at night has potential, but, so far, Ennis hasn’t tapped into it. The only thing that makes this issue an improvement at all over the first two is Adriano Batista not drawing the whole thing with Marcos Marz stepping in to finish drawing the comic.
The issue begins with a slightly humorous scene where a neighbor tries to come on to Jennifer by exposing himself in a bathroom during a barbeque. It’s a broad sort of humor that allows for Ennis to write some over-the-top dialogue, but never inspires the laughs it’s going for. From there, the plot shifts into automatic with Jennifer reflecting on how she can’t get close to any of the other wives and going about her mission of revenge. We learn a little more about what she wants, but it’s so mundane that there’s little to separate it from dozens of other revenge-driven stories.
A big flaw of the series to date has been Batista’s art and the way it looks on the page. On a superficial level, it comes off as amateurish. It looks like it was printed at a copy shop instead of by a professional comic book publisher. The difference when Marz takes over the art in this issue on just that superficial level is striking. The production quality increases a lot and the comic looks better for it.
Ignoring that criticism, Marz’s art has a cleaner, more direct look to it. Batista’s style is muddled and cluttered, unable to depict anything but the broadest of emotions and reactions. It’s suited to the over-the-top scene that begins this issue and not much else. Any scene that requires nuance or more subdued art doesn’t get it.
Not that Marz is perfect. His art has a flat, lifeless look to it that sterilizes the book. But, given the two options, a more subdued style complements Ennis’ writing better. By presenting what’s happening in a straight forward manner, the absurdity of the writing comes out better. It changes from cartoonish to more biting in its humor.
After three issues, it’s not too hard to see that “Jennifer Blood” isn’t working. Tonally, it can’t find a place that works and the way that the idea of a vigilante housewife out for revenge is handled is so by-the-numbers and obvious that nothing surprises. Ennis is usually a ‘must buy’ writer; not this time.