Gypsy Joe Jefferson


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Gypsy Joe Jefferson


  • Words: Jason M. Burns
  • Art: Armando M. Zanker
  • Inks: Armando M. Zanker
  • Colors: Armando M. Zanker
  • Story Title: Gypsy Joe Jefferson
  • Publisher: Viper Comics
  • Price: $9.95
  • Release Date: Sep 10, 2008

Thankfully this book has what Hollywood big wigs call a “high concept” to go with the catchy name.

Joe Jefferson is a burly ex-boxer who, because of his wife, has managed to eke out his days as a night guard at Bolt Dynamics. The book drops us off at the point where all the boring bits are left behind, and we are forced to play catch up. It’s a wise move from writer Jason M. Burns (The Expendable One) allowing action to take centre stage, and all of that action is thanks to the twist on this man on the run tale.

As Joe explains to us in the opening pages, he has been forcefully subjected to an unusual experiment for military purposes, becoming a living biological weapon. Bolt’s aim was to create a soldier whom they could dump inside enemy lines to wipe out the opposition with minimal fuss. Due to his aggression inducing pheromones, the soldiers would breathe in Joe’s “violence inducing man musk” and start killing each other.

It’s a great idea and unfortunately for Joe, it works perfectly.

Armed with a wrist watch that alerts him of the 5 minute limit it takes to work its manic mojo, Joe must stay one step ahead of not only the armed Bolt soldiers who want to reclaim their escapee/guinea pig, but also anyone else. If he stays in any place for longer than that time, the hapless civilians around him go into a berserker rage, and take aim at each other, but mostly Joe, with a frightening bloodlust.

Reading this book is a breeze. The cast of characters is minimal, and thanks to Burns’ skill, and the idea behind this adventure, Joe is forced to keep moving, as he seeks not only survival, but also, answers. This means the pace is gloriously hectic and readers need to take a breath just to keep up. After leaving behind a cafe full of angry patrons, Joe hops into the nearest cab, aiming for Huntingburg where he expects to take out his vengeance upon Bolt’s CEO. However, just as his wrist watch warns him of the inevitable rage from the cab driver and he’s ready to dive, something strange happens. Actually, nothing happens, and that’s what’s strange. As he continues talking to Jody Curtis, his young female chauffeur, he notices that her personality remains intact despite Joe’s newfound abilities. It appears that apart from a sunny disposition, Jody was born with anosmia. She can’t smell. Obviously, the hard nosed bruiser and kindly gal team up to seek a solution. Wherever they turn they are confronted by more Bolt soldiers, dead ends and accusations about Joe’s wife’s involvement in his predicament. With doubt filling his mind, Joe races home and finds his wife; the victim of an apparent suicide.

He becomes erratic, leaves Jody safely behind and breaks into his former employer’s premises, in full Dirty Harry mode, where he meets guinea pig no. 1, reminiscent of Batman bad-guy Bane. There’s more fighting to be had and finally a confrontation with the real mastermind, who has creepy powers of his own.

With its simple style this is a book anyone can pick up and read. However, there are a few minor drawbacks. Joe’s narration throughout is a nice touch, but often unnecessary. There’s barely a panel that doesn’t have a sentence or two relaying Joe’s commentary, which is usually a blow by blow rundown of his fighting style. Jody also appears to follow Joe on his cross-country investigation far too easily for a stranger. The multitude of metaphors almost becomes a tired novelty too. Joe drops lines such as “like a rabbit scurrying down its hole,” “He flexes like Hulk Hogan working a crowd,” and “I lash out like a rattlesnake,” as readily as he drops expletives. That’s the other minor irritation here; the profanity. It may be deemed unnecessary by those enticed by the cartoony pencils. This isn’t one for the kiddies, despite Armando M. Zanker’s almost-Bruce Timm like art.

Like Bruce Willis or MacGyver, this story of an average man using his fists and ingenuity long enough to stay alive and solve the mystery of his fate is an intriguing one however. With scenes such as Joe and Jody trapped on a subway train with a multitude of vicious commuters, Burns shows that he can not only conjure big ideas, but also make them work in the context of an enthralling story.

This TPB also comes with a 20 page preview of an upcoming Burns book, Imaginary Friends: The Rise of Shift Valentine, which showcases another high concept – a team of imaginary characters teaming up to stop another imaginary character (who once belonged to Billy the Kid and Hitler) from becoming real and wreaking havoc in our world.

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