Review by Seth
Jennifer Blood appears on this hallowed ‘Blog by virtue of the 3 writers of the series, “Judge Dredd“ script robots Garth Ennis, Al Ewing and Michael Carroll. Recently concluded and collected in a series of volumes published by Dynamite.
Created by Garth Ennis, Jennifer Blood begins as a revenge thriller. Jennifer Fellows has it all, the white picket fence, married to meek accountant Andrew, with two kids Mark and Alice in a suburban stereotype. However, Jennifer has a secret; she is actually Jessica Blute, the daughter of Sam Blute a famous crime lord who has been murdered by his brothers. Jessica was a young girl at the time,her mother marries one of her father’s murderers and takes her own life. She leaves a note explaining to Jessica what and how she ended up in that situation and sows the seeds for a long, very carefully and obsessively planned revenge.
For his 6 issues, Ennis uses a number of imaginative ways for Jen/Jess to off her Dad’s siblings, occasionally tasteless, sometimes blackly amusing, but always graphic (he does seem to have an obsession with entrails). Jess/ Jen’s mission is at an end, and so you would think is the series. “Not so” said Dynamite, “we can spin this out”.
Ewing picks up the baton from Issue 7, continuing from the very last scene of issue 6. The black humour remains, but Jess’ gets sloppy at the end of her mission; inquisitive children and a pervy neighbour and elements of hard edged and (bloody) farce begin to creep in. Jess’ attracts the attentions of a police detective with some iffy personal habits, poor interpersonal skills and the grieving, but fabulously wealthy and criminally connected, parents of her victims. Jess’ gets caught and finds herself in the slammer, but leaves a trail of dismembered bodies and a river of blood in her wake.
Inevitably, Jess’ escapes with some outside help, but desperately wants to re unite with her kids. This takes her into direct conflict with the FBI and her extended family but with little asides and filling in the background to the Blute family (with a little origin story), and the influence that Jess’ had on wide society. Carroll eschews the black humour, taking the story into more serious, but still violent, territory, until the climax with issue 36 and the end of the series.
The first 6 issues read like an unused, or if I were to be unkind, a recycled and remixed plot line from Ennis’ acclaimed Punisher run. Ennis contrasts Jess’ family chores with the rather less mundane preparation for the run against her next target; domesticity and suburban life interspersed with gangland style executions. It’s good, but not great, not helped by the art which starts well by Adriano Batista, but suddenly changes to the flat, angular characterless Marcos Marz, by the end of Ennis’ run the wonderfully named Kewber Baal had taken over. By no means a great artist, workmanlike, with occasional flair, Baal stays with the series until the very end, alternating with the marginally more wooden Eman Casallos.
Ewing’s run continues in the vein of Ennis’ run. The humour becomes blacker, his characters have few redeeming features, even the ones working on the side of law and order, it’s the highpoint of the series. He runs with the set up, develops the foundations and puts Jess’ into some increasingly desperate situations. Seemingly writing himself into a corner, Ewing takes the only logical (if somewhat brutal) conclusion, and there is no going back for Jess’.
By the time Carroll takes over the series begins to run out of wriggle room. By now it’s clear that all the cast members are expendable, but this also means that the plot begins to run into dead ends. Carroll’s run has a few false starts, feels padded and lacks direction. This is less Carroll’s problem and more to do with what Ewing had left him with. There is only so much you can do with a clearly unbalanced, homicidal former housewife and mother now internationally (in)famous and on the run. The ending feels curtailed and rushed. Carroll’s accompanying series “First Blood” origin series is better.
Don’t rush out and buy it, it’s lots of fun, occasionally hits a few bumps on the road and perhaps could have been shorter. The spin off series’ “First Blood” is good, though it wasn’t really necessary. “Ninjettes” is pretty non essential and is one of Ennis’ jokes spun out over six issues, but Ewing makes a good fist (and sword, machine gun etc etc) of it.
Top covers though.
“Jennifer Blood “ – 1-16 and annual 1 (being collected)
“Jennifer Blood : First Blood” (origin story) 1-6