I flew into San Francisco on Saturday morning. I returned to Phoenix on Sunday night. Somewhere in between, I had the pleasure of picking up some of the best independent comic books self-published today at the annual Alternative Press Expo, and as is my custom every year, I'd like to review as many of them as I can, albeit in short bursts.
As I read through my swag pile over the next few days, if all of the comics I bought (or traded for) at APE are as good as Josh Shalek's Dancing With Jack Ketch: The Life of Jackson Donfaire, Notorious Pirate, I'm in for a treat. This impressive 40-page minicomic tells the story of, you guessed it, Jackson Donfaire, the son of an escaped slave that manages to elude his would-be masters and stow away on a pirate ship. Through a series of mishaps and twists of fate, Jackson experiences a taste of power, confronts the tragedies of his past, and embraces the promises of his new future.
What I liked best about Josh's story was its historical roots; with a base in early colonial slavery, and a surprisingly down-to-earth portrayal of the classic pirate, one could be led to believe this yarn is spun from real events. Shalek's art betrays a whimsy to his writing style, at times reflecting the style of old Playboy gag panels or The New Yorker comic strips, but his characters offer real depth, just like the ocean to which they're bound. Above all else, Jackson's story is a human one; the pirates stuff is just, well, added treasure.
Josh's work can found at his website, Falling Rock National Park.