Joe Casey swaps sex for drugs as a slacker get super and continues to subvert the perception of modern superhero comics.
Since the 1980s, a sub-genre of superhero comics have grown increasing darker and cynical, deconstructing the core elements to demonstrate disillusionment with the ideals that funny books once aspired to. In a post The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen world, these comics have traded their capes for grit. They are no longer a giving us a “golden age” to aspire to, but are increasingly reflecting writer’s perception of society. Case in point is our hero Jasper Jenkins, introduced in a full-page splash while taking a hit from a bong. Are superheroes not fighting crime to combat injustice, or is there just nothing better to do?
Lounging around with his brother, and Assistant District Attorney Jeremiah Jenkins, Jasper is sparked into action by a news report of the police chief being assailed by a powerful villain. Demonstrating physical abilities commensurate with the title of the comic, he fails to save the victim and finds himself co-accused of the crime. It begins a city-wide reaction against the rise of costumed vigilantes.
Following on from his success so far with Sex, another deconstruction of the capes genre, Casey approaches The Bounce with an entirely different set of eyes. While his other Image title is a nuance noir, asking what happens when the thrill of the cape is gone, this title dispenses with the subtlety and spins the concept around 180 degrees. Here the spandex is another in a series of highs, a drug-fuelled odyssey that is almost asking what would have happened if Peter Parker had turned to pot in the aftermath of his uncle’s death. To hammer home this difference, Casey dramatically changes tempo in the second half of the issue, as Jasper seeks out a bigger high, only to find himself literally inhaling a person and winding up inside that aforementioned golden age.
David Messina (Ultimate Comics Wolverine, Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness) mirrors Casey’s script flipping, beginning the issue with a clean and defined portrayal of a grungy world, one that could slide in easily to any established super-world. His design of the lead hero is a simple yet effective spin on Marvelesque tights, although perhaps sharing more with Mark Millar’s practical versions of heroes. Yet when Casey gives the go-ahead in the last third of the book, Messina drops a veritable acid bath of imagery, not simply changing up his style but the very texture of the panels. It’s a clear message to the reader: you’re in our world now, and we’re just getting started.
This joy of discovery is really the appeal of The Bounce, and the expectation that the unexpected is only a few pages away. Finding new takes on the superhero genre is becoming increasingly difficult, and while this first issue may not have the same impact as Casey’s Sex, we get the same feeling that he is still setting us up to knock us down later.
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