Written by Eric Kripke
Drawn by John Higgins
Published by DC Comics/Vertigo
I had never heard of this series until this past Wednesday. If there’s been any news or talk about it, I haven’t seen it. And I never noticed any previous issue when checking Comixology every week. But as I was browsing the “new comics” on Wednesday, I saw JACKED #5 for sale, and read the synopsis. I was intrigued, and then checked issues 1-4 of the series on the app. And I just had to go ahead and buy all 5 issues at once.
Partially this was because I swear I had a similar idea myself years ago, which I never did anything with (the story of my life), which was the idea of someone buying a nootropic (like Excelerol or TruBrain) online and then finding out that it gives them super-powers. So I was like, crap, these guys beat me to it!
I mean, admittedly, it’s not the most original premise in the world to begin with, either for a superhero or other type of fiction. After all, a couple of years ago Mark Millar wrote his miniseries MPH, about kids taking a pill that gave them super speed (his aborted WAR HEROES miniseries also involved special pills that gave people temporary super powers). Long before that, in March 1940 DC comics debuted the character of HOURMAN, a scientist who invented a special pill called Miraclo, and when he takes one it gives him super powers (the last for one hour). That late 60’s/early 70’s TV cartoon UNDERDOG was a character who needed to take “super energy pills.” And while they weren’t pills, the 1980’s brought us CAPTAIN CARROT, a humanoid Rabbit who gained temporary super powers every time he ate one of his special radioactive carrots. Not to mention POPEYE and his spinach. And, of course, the BOOK, MOVIE, and TV SERIES “Limitless.”
Still, this series is specifically about an nootropic purchased online, which was also my idea, so for any other reason, I at least wanted to see how writer Eric Kripke handles this premise. So here we go.
We are quickly introduced to our protagonist, Josh, a 40-something man whose life is not going so well. He’s married, with two young children, but he’s been out of work for 6 months. By his own admission, he spends most of time sitting at home watching TV, or jerking off to internet porn, while his kids are at school and his wife it supporting them all with her busy job. This jobless situation is already enough to start driving Josh to depression, but he’s also feeling all the typical pains of middle-age, being a typical out of shape man. Even the occasional sex he has with his wife is short and not quite satisfying to either of them. After Josh’s brother, also his dentist, suggests that Josh take a nootropic, Josh goes online and looks them up, and decides to order a bottle of something called JACKED. When they arrive in the mail a few days later, he pops one. And then when out at a local batting cage with his son, Josh feels a sudden rush as his mind expands and his body recovers. The next thing you know, there’s a car accident (which Josh inadvertently causes), Josh feels a rush of adrenaline and runs over to the scene to rescue someone, exhibiting super strength as he does (which only his son notices). And the issue ends with Josh back at home, looking at the bottle of Jacked, contemplating how addicting this could be.
A very good first issue for a series. The introduction of Josh, and our insight into his world, is very well done. From our first shot of him in the bathroom brushing his teeth in his underwear, throughout the course of the issue, we are able to identify and sympathize with him. He’s just a poor schmuck who has had some bad breaks lately and isn’t sure how to cope with that. He just wants to get close to his wife again and have his children look up to him like they used to, but he doesn’t know how to make any of that happen. So he sort of just trudges along, but it’s clear that he’s really close to giving up altogether.
John Higgins’ artwork also fits the story very well. He draws the everyday scenes as well as he does the action scenes with heavy violence. Also the scenes where Josh first trips out as the Jacked pill kicks in are a beautiful sight to behold. He was perfectly chosen for this series.
Altogether I very highly recommend this issue, with an A+!