In January, I resolved to catch up on at least one webcomic before year’s end. Of my catch-up contenders, one stood out on an art, story, and form level and quickly became my go-to webcomic read.
That comic? It’s none other than Dan Schkade and co.’s excellent adventure serial, Lavender Jack.
Set in the fictional metropolis of Gallery at the dawn of the 20th century, Lavender Jack is the story of a roguish, Zorro-like hero named (you guessed it) Lavender Jack, and his attempts to wrest control of Gallery away from a group of shadowy elites. If that’s all Lavender Jack was, it would still stand a chance of being very, very good. However, the story quickly grows in both scope and cast, adding intriguing protagonists, villains, and sub-plots that weave together quite nicely, creating a superb soap opera that consistently kept me clicking the Next button.
What Set Lavender Jack Apart From My Other Catch-up Contenders
Before, I’ve discussed many of the key elements the best vertical scroll webcomics use to keep readers reading. Lavender Jack employs those elements quite effectively. Word balloons and the thrust of characters’ actions continually draw readers’ eyes across and down and across and down the comic, keeping the story moving at a swift, steady pace. That, plus Lavender Jack‘s Batman Adventures-like clarity of line, motion, and character, makes it an incredibly easy and exciting read. And when I’m scrolling on my computer or my phone, easy and exciting are the two primary things I need out of a comic.
However, excellent art and action certainly aren’t always enough to keep me reading a webcomic. I’ve fallen off many webcomics that had great art and effective storytelling because their stories weren’t compelling enough to keep me hooked.
Not so with Lavender Jack. The initial mystery of “Who is Jack, and what is he doing?” quickly gives way to compelling character drama, in which we learn more about Jack, aging private detective Theresa Ferrier, bullheaded police officer Honoria Crabb, and many other members of Gallery’s populace. As several of the story’s protagonists and villains start crashing into each other, Lavender Jack becomes a soap opera of the highest order, which yes, is meant as a compliment here. Each character in Lavender Jack, hero, villain, and noncombatant alike, has a perspective on life that colors their actions. When those perspectives clash or align, the resulting fireworks feel that much more explosive, because we understand why each character is doing what they’re doing.
Perhaps Lavender Jack‘s most important strength, though, is its propensity for ending on a cliffhanger, or at least with an unanswered question or two hanging in the air. Nearly no episode of Lavender Jack ends conclusively. Instead, each episode’s ending pushes you to click the Next button, to follow Jack or his cohorts into the next plot, punch, or day. Setting down (or in this case, closing) Lavender Jack in the middle of a season is semi-painful, because part of you will always want to click ahead to see what happens next.
But Wait … I’m Not Caught Up on Lavender Jack After All?
This made hitting the end of the comic’s run (which I did in May, I believe) a bit bittersweet. Yes, I succeeded in completing my resolution to catch up on a long-running webcomic. But I did not want to have caught up. I wanted there to be more Lavender Jack in the world.
Thankfully, I recently learned there will be! By the time this post is live, new episodes of Lavender Jack will have returned to Webtoon:
On what schedule and frequency, I have no idea. But I’m quite glad to have Lavender Jack back in the world. It’s the first webcomic in a long time that’s compelled me to read it from beginning to end in one swift go. And if this review has left you intrigued, now seems like the perfect time to hop on and catch up, as the current season resumes and races toward its end.
[…] Lavender Jack returned in September of this year, for what seems to be the pulp superhero strip’s final story. The episodes released since the series’s return have felt like a mad dash toward the finish line, full of dramatic confrontations and revelations that, if I’m being honest, make me feel like I need to go back and reread the preceding chapters to feel their full weight. But thankfully, all of Lavender Jack is available on Webtoon, so I can go back and start from the series’s beginning anytime. […]