The Saga of The Jack of Spades Volume 1 is available now from publisher Renegade Arts Entertainment. From writer Chase Kantor, colorist Sabrina O’ Donnell and artist Daniel Schneider comes a deep medieval epic in the vein of Robin Hood and Game of Thrones. Here’s my review of the first trade:
Prince Jack’s days are numbered. Surrounded by criminals, assassins, knaves, and usurpers, everyone is out to get him, and that’s just members of his own court. For centuries, The Four Kingdoms, the Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, and Spades, waged war upon each other. To stem the bloodshed, the Four of a Kind, an order of wise and holy men, were entrusted to keep the peace at any cost. But the wheels of war are turning once more…
Chase Kantor and Daniel Schneider have managed to create one of the most intricate and finely tuned ‘fantasy’ universes that I’ve seen in quite some time. There are enough politics and backstabbing (both actually and metaphorically) in this first volume of The Saga of The Jack of Spades to seduce any fan of A Song of Ice and Fire’ or even just those who enjoy a good ol’ fashioned Robin Hood styled story. Kantor’s universe is loaded with various card references, and not just by naming various kingdoms after the suits in a deck either (ala Hearts, Clubs) but even in actions (fold, tilting and various Poker terminology). It’s a fine integration of the lore that Kantor has delicately weaved throughout his complex tale of rebellions and kingdoms vying for control over a violent land that is on the verge of all-out war.
The Saga of The Jack of Spades may have several intriguing characters and a cast that I would love to see more of in future collections, but this first volume mostly belongs to Prince Jack and his fall from grace. It’s a fascinating and gripping storyline to see what becomes of a cocky and entitled member of a royal family who suddenly finds himself in the hands of a rebel terror group called ‘The Euchres’. This angle was the main driving point of the book and overall the most fascinating one for me, especially in the second half of the volume when Kantor and Schneider twist the plot in ways I truly didn’t see coming.
Schneider has his work cut out for him in this series as it calls for some truly daunting pages that include the creation of a brand new mythical world created from scratch and including unique costumes, clothing, masks, villages, castles, landscapes – vast spreads of genius and it all fit very well into Kantor’s narrative. It reminded me of Fables to some degree and if you haven’t read that acclaimed series – that would be a glowing compliment. There are some brilliantly staged action sequences littered throughout, but much of the appeal in this first arc of the series deals with a lot of character building, political intrigue and quite a bit of backstory to make the current events make any sense. In other words – there are a lot of words in this book and Kantor had a bold task in delivering such a vast amount of info to the reader in a smooth enough way without scaring them off.
I’ll admit that the pacing in the first half of Volume 1 felt slow at times, but the second half is a gripping story that took me to such unexpected places, that the buildup truly does pay off by the end. What makes the second half work so well, maybe it’s because we spend more time in one location (or less locations/characters) but I felt more intrigued by what was going on here and it reminded me of some classic escape/adventure stories which I adore. There’s a lot to love and a lot to learn with The Saga of The Jack of Spades and the appeal is most certainly there for all fans of action fantasy period fiction or whatever the Hell it is you want to refer to it by – let’s just say for now that Kantor and Schneider have successfully launched a brand new universe modeled around a deck of cards and they pulled it off beautifully.