“I think of myself as a criminal mastermind…with an unfortunate amount of bad luck,” admits Jack (4). And with these words, Shannon and Dean Hale launch their latest graphic novel, Calamity Jack, in which Jack from Rapunzel’s Revenge returns – this time starring in his own tale.
Calamity Jack is set in Shyport, a metropolis miles away from the western wilds of Gothel’s Reach where Jack and Rapunzel first met. Shyport is populated by townspeople and thugs, as well as fantastical creatures like brownies, giants, Jabberwocks, and Bandersnatches (a creative nod to Lewis Carroll). And then there’s Jack, who realizes at the early age of two that his calling is thievery. Jack also discovers this depressing equation about himself: Jack + Great Plan = Unforeseen (Usually Calamitous) Results. Not disheartened, Jack doesn’t let bad outcomes squelch his ambitions. As a result, he accidentally demolishes his mother’s bakery, angers a giant, and has to leave Shyport in a hurry. Out west, as told in Rapunzel’s Revenge, Jack meets and befriends Rapunzel and helps her overthrow the witch Gothel. Jack then returns home with Rapunzel to rebuild his mother’s bakery. All’s not well at home, though. Shyport is under attack from sizeable and ferocious Ant People, and Jack’s enemy Blunderboar is now in control of the city as head of a police force of giants. It’s up to Jack, Rapunzel, a pixie named Prudence, and the newspaperman Frederick Sparksmith the Third to uncover the truth about what is happening in Shyport and save the city.
As the plot unfolds, Jack struggles with the consequences of his larcenous past. Jack had planned for the act of thievery which landed him in his present trouble to be his final heist and to enable him to restore his mother’s bakery. Instead, Jack’s “ends-justifies-means” methodology results in the obliteration of the bakery and disaster for himself, his family, and his city. Perhaps the authors intend this for reasons beyond the storyline. Perhaps they want Calamity Jack to show the problems of pragmatism and the unforeseen consequences that stealing can have – even after the thief has reformed. In fact, though not as elegantly executed as “A Retrieved Reformation” by O. Henry, Calamity Jack contains similar valuable insights.
In addition to these direct ramifications of his thieving, Jack also struggles with how his past will affect his future, even though he has reformed. If Rapunzel discovers he used to be just like the bad guys she’s always defeating, will it destroy their friendship?
Once again, Shannon and Dean Hale have woven a story worth reading, and Nathan Hale has brought it to life with his art. Characters, setting, story, and themes all combine to make Calamity Jack a fun adventure and an excellent sequel to Rapunzel’s Revenge.