“Jacked” writer Eric Kripke is best known as the creator of the long-running television series “Supernatural,” with only a handful of comic credits in the form of “Supernatural” stories. With that in mind, Kripke takes to the format with great ease; he and John Higgins’ “Jacked” #1 feels like the first reel of a new movie, and you’ll quickly be dying to see the rest.
The conceit is fairly simple; Josh is a guy who’s seen better days, with everything from acid reflux and a bad knee to unemployment and a dwindling lack of respect from his wife and son. Then, his younger brother tells him about nootropics, also known as smart drugs or neuro enhancers. Desperate, Josh purchases one named Jacked — and that’s when the impossible becomes reality.
Kripke’s story has a nice pacing to it; we open with a two page sequence showing where the story is headed, we rewind a week and move through the days until that opening event occurs and then things wrap up with a glimpse into the future. Kripke opens and closes the comic with hooks to make you want to see more, and then gives us just what he promised in those opening pages so you know there will be a payoff. It’s a strong understanding of how to tell a story in a serialized format.
Just as important as the structure is the meat of the story itself. We’ve all seen similar stories of sad sacks getting a chance to become super-enhanced, so what matters here are the fine details. Kripke does a good job painting a portrait of Josh’s sad little life, from the repeated statements at (failed) job interviews to a detailing of all of his physical ailments. The issue even shows his lousy sex life in action, lovingly drawn by Higgins so we see the bored and glazed expressions on both Josh and his wife’s faces. When Jacked kicks in and Josh finds himself capable of being a real-life superhero, it’s so unlike everything we’ve seen up until this point that Kripke’s idea bursts through loud and clear. That’s why “Jacked” #1 works so well from a writing standpoint; it’s the strong vision that makes this version of the idea stand out, which makes readers want to come back for more.
I suspect most people in comics still think of Higgins solely as the colorist of “Watchmen,” but hopefully this will dissuade them of the idea that it’s all he can do. Higgins’ art here is perfectly suited to Kripke’s story; it reminds me a lot of Doug Mahnke’s art, with its grubby and fine details lovingly drawn in every single panel. Look at Josh’s face at the end of the second-to-last page, after the incident has wrapped up, and then compare it to any scebe before he’s taken his first dose of Jacked. It’s still recognizably the same person, but you can see the mental transformation that’s taken place. He looks much calmer and self-assured, not the doubting schlub we saw earlier. There’s a huge attention to detail here, too. From the lush exterior of the dentist’s office to the saliva moving over each individual tooth, Higgins leaves nothing to chance here. Even the hundreds of medicinal tubes and boxes swirling around Josh when we first meet him are carefully placed onto the page; this is a really fine looking book.
Back when it had the working title of “Amped,” it was announced Kripke is also developing a live-action version of this comic for USA Network. It doesn’t surprise me; based on what we’ve seen here, if I was a network executive, I’d jump on it too. “Jacked” is a six-issue miniseries for now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes back for more. This is fun and engaging first issue, one that reels the audience back in for more. I’m ready to be “Jacked” every month.