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Fleen Book Corner: Mighty Jack And The Goblin King

A review copy of Mighty Jack And The Goblin King was provided by Gina Gagliano at :01 Books; as you might expect, this review will include spoilers.

You gotta give Ben Hatke (comics artist, adventurer, gymnast, archer, fire breather, and a bunch of other things besides) a couple of things: he works fast (more on that in a moment), and he knows how to tie his stories together (also, that). Oh, and he knows how to tell a cracking good yarn.

Mighty Jack released a year ago today, ending on a cruel cliffhanger; yesterday three separate books with his name on the cover were released — two by Ann M Martin (of Baby Sitters Club fame) that he illustrated, and the conclusion to Jack’s story, Mighty Jack And The Goblin King. We’re here to discuss the latter.

Jack, you may recall, is new to the hero business. He kind of made it up as he went along under the tutelage of Lilly from down the block (who’s really much better at the swords and fighting and adventuring stuff, as well as being generally much smarter about things; at that early teens age, girls are much more level headed than boys¹). Magic beans, weird creatures, his sister kidnapped by an ogre at the end of the first book … he has no idea what’s going on, but Maddie is his sister and he loves her and he will charge into whatever unknown fate to get her back.

You see, in those worlds beyond, where magic and space collide, Jack is less a name and more of a title; Jacks are heroes of great renown. To get Maddie back, Jack will have to climb magical plants and defeat giants and he’s just one kid with more ambition than true skill; but unlike all those Jacks from the stories, our Jack isn’t going in alone. He’s got Maddie, and before it’s over he’ll have a classic Shelby Mustang and an army of goblins and a dragon there alongside him.

Most of all he’s got Lilly and her example — she is lost and injured because he was reckless; she defeats the Goblin King and takes his crown (not to mention inheriting the goblin horde that she leads to Jack’s aid); she shows him what the meaning of sacrifice really is.

He feels hurt. He feels loss. He saves his sister (and she saves him in return) and heals the place between worlds and he sees the cost and even if it all works out he feels the sting of his failures. He returns home a bit wiser, a bit more melancholy, sufficiently wealthier (what’s a Jack that returns from the giant lands beyond beanstalk without gold to show for it, after all?), but no smarter about some things staring him in the face².

Things might be getting back to normal, except the goblins declare that it doesn’t matter that King Lilly is going back to her world — Goblins come for her when need³ — and the stranger that sold him the beans back in the first book is hanging around with some familiar friends and they need Jack and Lilly’s help. Nothing too difficult, says the heroine of another series, Just saving the world. Just the sort of thing that calls for a Jack.

And there the circle closes — in that place between worlds, Hatke is able to tie together the casts of Mighty Jack and Zita The Spacegirl and Nobody Likes A Goblin and any other stories he chooses to. All of the heroes — young and old, comic and serious, technological, magical, suburban, other — are part of one story, one that tells us to be brave, be kind, stand by your friends, persevere. Do those things, Hatke tells us, and we can save the world. It’s a heck of a message, one that I think we can all stand to hear as often as he cares to share it with us.

Mighty Jack And The Goblin King is available in bookstores everywhere; get it for your favorite Jack or Lilly (or Zita or Goblin), and maybe give it a good read before you hand it over. All of us, whatever age or condition, we can all be Jacks.

Spam of the day:

No matter who you’re looking for, they’re looking for you too

Hmmm, compelling. But let me counter with another viewpoint courtesy of Jaeger Ayers: No matter how hot you are, no matter how rich, how smart, how cool you are, somebody, somewhere, is sick of your shit.

¹ Not to mention pretty much every other age.

² Fortunately, Lilly has the gumption — and the advice of a Magic 8-Ball — to act and make the situation clear to him.

³ Although, as Jack notes, they are vague about whether that means when Lilly needs, or when the goblins need.

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