Mighty Jack - Ben Hatke

Jack might be the only kid in the world who's dreading summer. But he's got a good reason: summer is when his single mom takes a second job and leaves him at home to watch his autistic kid sister, Maddy. It's a lot of responsibility, and it's boring, too, because Maddy doesn't talk. Ever. But then, one day at the flea market, Maddy does talk—to tell Jack to trade their mom's car for a box of mysterious seeds. It's the best mistake Jack has ever made.

What starts as a normal little garden out back behind the house quickly grows up into a wild, magical jungle with tiny onion babies running amok, huge, pink pumpkins that bite, and, on one moonlit night that changes everything…a dragon.

I love Hatke's work. Each one has its own charm, it's own power. Mighty Jack is a fabulous new take on the Jack and the Beanstalk tale, with strong characters, intriguing new dynamics and new and more menacing evils than even the original versions of the story. Jack is not alone in this graphic novel. He's got a sister, a loving mother, and a fierce, sword-wielding friend to help him this time.

Jack is a typical teenage boy, sometimes rebellious, at other times sweet and supportive of his younger sister, who it appears is autistic. And he's also often misunderstood by his mother, who quite obviously loves him, but is also working multiple jobs and doesn't always quite understand what's going on, only seeing the remnants of the trouble into which Jack finds himself thrown.

I quite enjoyed the way in which the magical seeds were introduced and how the plants have magical qualities that are both dangerous and empowering (one plant, for example, allows them to jump incredible distances). There's also a dragon, an unnamed evil, and at one point, a gigantic snail trying to get into their house! The sister, though at first seemingly unaware of what is happening, is much more helpful than Jack and his new friend likely thought.

As per usual, Hatke's use of colour, action, and paneling make for a story that is compelling and visually complex, worthy of multiple readings. This is simply a must-read, and one that acknowledges that heroes are not heroes without friends and/or family to offer support (and sometimes a harsh word or two).

Note: This is the first in a series, so don't expect a nicely wrapped up ending!

Highly Recommended


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