Comic Review: “Jack the Ripper – Vampire Hunter” (Stuntman Comics, Festival of Dread Special)

Welcome back to the Festival of Dread, The Splintering’s month-long celebration of all things ripping and roaring.

Today we’re going to take a look at Jack the Ripper: Vampire Hunter written by Mandy Summers, illustrated by peter Gilmore and published by Stuntman Comics in 2022. So does it suck? Or does it suck the other way? 

Naturally, some spoilers will follow. 

Extremely loosely based on the Whitechapel Murders of 1888, Jack the Ripper: Vampire Hunter puts a supernatural spin on the infamous serial killer. The book is split between four separate chapters and an introductory prologue, all of which tell the story in non-sequential chunks. The main through line follows “Jack,” an anonymous hunter who wanders the London streets at night, intent on tracking down an alpha vampire referred to as “The Lord of Highgate” and his underlings. Jack’s mission isn’t motivated by an altruistic desire to protect the people of the city, rather he is trying to find a cure for his vampire bite before he turns. 

Jack’s investigations take him to the seediest corners of the city, to the brothels and whorehouses where The Lord of Highgate’s extensive vampire harem has taken refuge. For anyone who is familiar with historically accurate Ripper lore, the drama plays out as you might expect. Jack viciously exterminates these undead ladies of the night, and the police believe that Jack is a violent serial killer preying on prostitutes, completely unaware of the supernatural extermination service that Jack is providing. 

The last time a woman gave me that look, I slept on the couch

One of these police officers is Detective James King, an American policeman on temporary exchange with the London Police Force (“Service…”). While Jack’s character and exploits are exciting, the chapters that focus on Detective King are more than a bit dull. I found myself scanning these pages quickly just to get back to the Ripper action, and I hope that future issues of Jack the Ripper: Vampire Hunter do more to add dimension to Detective King’s character, because he’s fairly one-note in the first book. 

By comparison, Jack is much more entertaining than I expected. His face is never revealed, which is probably due to the fact that the historical Ripper was never discovered, but he remains an interesting, well-developed character. Jack consistently compliments himself in his internal narration, calling himself names like “clever Jack” and assuring himself that the world will eventually celebrate him for his great victory over the vampires. It’s actually really funny, and adds a lot of fun to the otherwise gruesome imagery on the page.

Midnight snack time! Which is around midnight, I’d expect.

Peter Gilmores’s art is just as dark and gruesome as you’d expect a Ripper story to be. It is fully presented in black and white, though there is still plenty of blood, guts, and eviscerations, with plenty of the imagery mimicking the actual crime photos from the original Ripper murders. To add to the adult nature of the book, there is also a heaping, heaving helping of nudity, primarily the feminine physique. 

The environments around London are even more impressive than the characters. The streets and architecture of the era are deftly recreated in a way that seems authentic (I say “seems” as I don’t have any first-hand knowledge). In any case, the artwork successfully creates a foreboding “sense of place,” and the strong chiaroscuro adds to the haunting mood and activates the reader’s imagination on what might be hiding in the shadows. This is perfectly matched with the black pages, which look black along the edges, too, giving the book itself a lot of character. 

You know, fish, chips, cup o’ tea. Bad food, worse weather, Mary F*cking Poppins, London!

I’ve already mentioned my lack of satisfaction with Detective King’s portions of the story, but there are a few other lingering gripes that are worth mentioning. Sticking with James King, his thought narration was presented similar to a word balloon, which made keeping the two distinct a task. A light task, I admit, but one that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. I also found that the main vampire’s ability to resurrect anywhere he has a bone buried to be a bit too convenient of a device to keep the story going. If this is an understood element of vampire lore, I can dismiss it, but I’ve never heard of this from any other vampire stories. 

Overall, Jack the Ripper: Vampire Hunter is a book that succeeds in making extremely gruesome subject matter quite a bit of fun to read. Jack himself is a compelling lead character; he’s historically one of the most notorious serial killers to ever walk the face of the earth, and I like him. A lot. (In the context of this book, of course) There is a near-ideal balance between violence and humor, and the black and white artwork hits a sweet spot, too. I do hope that Detective King is either sidelined as a supporting character or better utilized in the follow-up stories. 

If you’re not turned off by the mature content or the liberties taken with a series of tragic historical events, then I recommend Jack the Ripper: Vampire Hunter, and I do intend to back the next chapter when it launches on Indiegogo later this month

Thanks for reading!

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