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The Bounce #BookReview

Title: The Bounce (Trade Paperback, collecting issues 1-12) | Writer: Joe Casey | Editor: N/A | Illustrator: Sonia Harris, David Messina | Publisher: Image Comics | Pages: 270 | ISBN:1632150115 | Genre: Sci-Fi | Language: English | Triggers: Blood and gore |Stars: 2 of 5 | Source: Purchased |

Meet the ultimate slacker superhero for the 21st Century! Jasper Jenkins is a super-head AND a super-hero! He’s relatable AND reliable and he’s embarking on the adventure of a lifetime! The sensational debut of the new feel-good hero of the decade! You can’t afford to miss it!

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General Thoughts

The Bounce comic run is…kind of a mess. It seems like the creators wanted to parody the superhero genre, but also wanted to create a serious superhero comic in its own right, all wrapped up in a pessimistic social critique. Not to mention the story itself was kind of all over the place and I think they had some points they wanted to explore, but didn’t communicate all that well. I think that confusion and mixed messaging shows pretty heavily in the comic as a whole.

Also the idea of the Bounce’s super power isn’t compelling at all. I could get over that if the story were really compelling or had something to do with the fact that he doesn’t have A-list powers and had to compensate for it, but it just doesn’t do either of those things.

Some minor spoilers ahead.

Writing

The storytelling structure here is just weird. I can’t say for sure that any single issue had a clear arc, and the arc of the run as a whole felt like parts of it were being kept from me and the other parts just kind of bounced between the same few points over and over without much forward movement. Jasper’s purpose and motivation in the story are never really clear. I guess he wants to know what made him the way he is and what got his friend Zander killed/transported to another world, but he doesn’t ever seem like he wants it that badly.

And the choices Jasper makes don’t always seem to be with that goal in mind. He just kind of shows up at crime scenes and other key locations in the story and it’s supposed to be like he’s a Spider-Man-style do-gooder, but it feels like he’s being randomly shoehorned in a lot of the time just because he’s the protagonist. I can follow the goals and choices of Darling, the antagonist, pretty clearly, but Jasper feels like he’s only there because this is the character the creators wanted to focus on.

And I swear the plot bounces between the same handful of plot points faster than Jasper bounces his way through a fight scene. Go fight a supervillain, get your ass kicked. Go visit Silver, get fed more mysteries instead of answers. Get transported to the weird superhero world, forget to actually ask or learn anything important while there. After about five or six issues it started to feel really samey. I think I only learned actual plot-advancing info from Darling’s side of the story, and there wasn’t enough of that to properly satisfy me. It might’ve been more interesting to just write a superhero comic from the perspective of the villain, as far as this story is concerned.

Besides all that, since the story has time-hopping and dimensional travel as a core plot element, there’s a lot of moving around that can get hard to follow. One big complaint I had was that the story would jump back months or years into the past, format the panels exactly the same, and never indicate a return to the present. At least put “Now…” in a box or something if you’re not going to put in any other visual effort to differentiate the non-linear elements of the story. That kind of falls on the art department too, but that’s beside the point. They do this multiple times in the story and it’s never totally clear. I just kind of forced my brain to not care about it after the first couple of times.

Art

I can’t really fault the art. It’s not bad. It doesn’t really take any chances and feels like superhero comic art from the 90s and 2000s, but it works just fine. For the most part the panels and speech balloons were well laid out and easy to follow, ignoring one or two weird moments.

But I did see a typo or two, which I think is technically the art department’s fault, or at least the letterer’s/editor’s. I was surprised because I’m not sure if I’ve seen a typo in a comic before. Just a full on extra word in a speech bubble.

Critiques and Final Verdict

There were things I liked about this comic and things I didn’t. Unfortunately one of the things I didn’t like was the general presentation of the story and almost everything about the protagonist. There were some good story ideas and the villains had potential. It’s too bad they got dragged down by an uninteresting and poorly motivated protagonist and a weird story structure.

I guess I can at least give the comic props for having some diversity in its cast, but it kind of loses those points because the prominent poc characters mostly serve as plot points, are often criminals, and either die or are otherwise removed from the story. They at least didn’t hurt Terry, Jasper’s gay drag queen roommate, but Terry isn’t much more important to the story than Alfred is to the average Batman comic.

I don’t really now how to/if I can recommend this one. If you adore superhero comics this one might be worth your time, or you might hate it. If you need your stories to be relatively sensible and feature an active protagonist then you probably won’t like it. But if you want to read it for the archvillain and the mindless superhero antics then maybe give it a shot. I can’t say much for it other than that.

While this book is available at major retailers, in the interest of supporting indie bookstores, we recommend purchasing from Indiebound.org or from the Sci-Fi & Scary Bookshop. (Disclaimer, we do receive a small cut of the profits if you purchase from Bookshop, which goes toward supporting the site.)

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