Mighty Jack (2016) is YA/MG graphic story by Ben Hatke, author of the ZITA THE SPACEGIRL trilogy (highly recommended. btw). Here Hatke has a lot of fun with the Jack and the Beanstalk fairytale, though fair to say you’ve probably not seen a version like this.
Mighty Jack is set in modern times, with Jack the young son of a hard-working single mother. His little sister Maddy doesn’t talk (she’s presented as on the autistic spectrum), at least, she didn’t until one day at the local flea market when she prods Jack to trade the family car for a box of seeds from a strange individual. As one might imagine, mom is none too thrilled when she hears about this, and after filling out a stolen car report with the police (their car is later found several counties away), she tells Jack she needs more support from him, more of a sense of a responsibility, and more help in taking care of his sister.
That last task becomes more difficult thanks to the bizarre garden that grows from the seeds Jack and Maddy plant. It’s not just that the plants are funny looking and often huge, but they’re also mobile and, as days pass, grow more dangerous, moving from flinging mud to chomping on legs. A new girl down the street, Lily, gets involved; there’s a dragon, and something mysterious at the garden’s center that is coming to the surface. All of which will challenge Jack, his sister, and their new friend in unexpected ways.
Mighty Jack moves quickly and has lots of action, though the chase/fight scenes are nicely balanced with quieter, more intimate and emotional moments between brother and sister, mother and son. Hatke gently explores coming-of-age themes centering on responsibility, family obligation, dealing with the consequences of one’s actions, and making hard decisions.
The artwork, meanwhile, is delightful, with Hatke richly mining the potential of the fantasy plants, giving us stalks that look like hands reaching for the moon as they grow high, little onion-shaped creatures, and melons with gaping maws.
Young readers will eat up the fast pace and brightly colored (coloring done by Alex Campbell and Hilary Sycamore) illustrations, while hopefully internalizing some of the deeper themes. Parents will be well advised to have book two (Mighty Jack and the Goblin King) on hand, as Mighty Jack ends with a cliffhanger.
This looks very good. I’ve never heard of it, and while I’ve heard of Zita the Space Girl, from your reviews actually, I’ve never read them.