Through the darkness of future past, the magician longs to see. One chants out between two worlds: fire, walk with me. …Get it? Because the brothel in Twin Peaks was called “One-Eyed Jack’s”? …Everyone still remembers that show, right? …Right? There’s that new continuation series with David Lynch directing and everything… Sigh, whatever. Let’s just hit One-Eyed Jacks, edited by George R. R. Martin.
Something is stirring on Ellis Island, something strange and dangerous enough to subdue even the white-hot tensions between Wild Cards and naturals. The Jumpers are rising…
The members of this vicious gang have the power to jump their minds into others’ bodies, use them to commit acts of terror and violence – then withdraw as quickly as they came, leaving their hapless victims to face the consequences. Not even the powerful Aces are immune to the Jumper threat.
Begin a three-book struggle against the greatest enemy the Wild Cards have ever faced, edited by George R. R. Martin and written by Chris Claremont, Stephen Leigh, Victor Milan, John J. Miller, Lewis Shiner, Walton Simons, Melinda M. Snodgrass, and William F. Wu.
Source: back of the book (Goodreads link)
One-Eyed Jacks serves as the introduction for the Jumpers, who will be the villains of this arc of novels. So, best to address this issue right up front: I don’t like the Jumpers. One of the interesting things about the Wild Cards universe is that no two Wild Cards are the same: each Ace and Joker is unique and different. So, having this whole pack of characters with the exact same powers really cuts against the grain. If there was just one Jumper, I’d probably think it was a really interesting new power to explore. As it is, it wears out its novelty real fast. Furthermore, by introducing so many Jumper characters, the novel denies all of them any actual characterization. It doesn’t matter if a scene features David or Zelda or Molly Bolt; as far as the book is concerned, a Jumper’s a Jumper – all interchangeable in terms of personality, motivation, and narrative role. Bo-ring.
Also not helping matters? The very first act by which we’re introduced to the Jumpers is them killing a lesbian. And you all know how much I love that, right? So the book gets dinged with a -1 Dead Lesbian Penalty right off the bat. Oh joy.
The main plot thread running through this book concerns Jeremiah Strauss, aka the Projectionist, aka Mr. Nobody. It starts off with him throwing a pity party for himself over his romantic failures. Oh, doesn’t your heart just break over the tragic woes of this rich, handsome, super-powered man? I’ll be honest: the first few chapters with him are pretty much a boring slog through his overexaggerated woes. Now, don’t get the wrong idea: I’m actually pretty fond of Mr. Nobody’s character. It’s just hard to stay interested in even a likeable character if all they’re doing is sitting around and feeling sorry for themself for page after page. Thankfully, this plotline starts to pick up after he begins working with Popinjay to investigate the Jumpers and begins, you know, actually going places and doing things.
There are also a couple of stories in the book focused on other characters. Of them, I’d say that “Luck Be a Lady” is the best, since it features a strong introduction for future recurring minor character Dr. Cody Havero. Lazy Dragon’s story “Snow Dragon” is also very interesting – while he’s previously appeared as a minor antagonist in other stories, this is the first time we’ve gotten his POV – but it has a problem: it’s a setup that never pays off. Now that Lazy Dragon has finally been promoted to main character of a story and we’ve gotten these tantalizing hints about his past and his unusual relationship to his sister, you’d expect that he’s going to play a larger role in events going forward and we’ll finally get clued into his mysterious backstory. You might even dare to hope that he’s going to get – gasp! – a character arc. Ha ha, nope! This is the final appearance of Lazy Dragon. No, I’m serious. The writers just forget about him. So long, Lazy; you had potential. In the same vein, Croyd’s ex-girlfriend Veronica finally flips the latent card she drew during the Typhoid Croyd epidemic and becomes an Ace. And you might think, based on her gaining superpowers and swearing vengeance on the Jumpers, that this is the origin story of a new recurring hero. Wrong again; like Lazy Dragon, she’s quickly forgotten. Oh, but on the plus side, we do finally get a story from the POV of the Oddity. Oddity’s become kind of a staple of the Joker community, featuring in a number of stories in roles of various prominence – most recently, it was one of the suspects during the investigation of Chrysalis’s murder – but we’ve never actually gotten to see things from its perspective before. And, spoiler alert, unlike Lazy Dragon or Veronica, it will be returning in the future and eventually get some final closure to its story.
What else, what else… well, there’s a pretty decent story about civil war within the Shadow Fists as Fadeout takes on Kien and Ma Sui for leadership. This story features the introduction of Warlock, a very minor character who I think is really interesting in concept, even if he hardly ever appears again. Well, in his case, he’s pretty clearly a minor side character from the beginning, so it doesn’t bother me as much as the underutilization of Lazy Dragon or Veronica. Umm… there’s a story about some bad shit happening to Captain Trips. I mean, it’s the start of a new character arc for him, but it really doesn’t have any connection to the Jumper stuff and thus feels really out of place and unconnected to anything else. Hmm, let’s see, I think that’s everything… except… oh no, wait, there was one more thing, wasn’t there?
Blaise. Fucking Blaise.
This is the point where Blaise goes full evil and becomes the Abomination, though of course he’s been an abomination in my eyes from the start. Let me be clear: having him to turn villain in this way does nothing to redeem his character. He was a whiny, arrogant, despicable little shitstain when he was with the good guys, and he continues to be just as annoying and unpleasant to read about as a bad guy.
Look, this book isn’t terrible. I liked seeing Mr. Nobody doing detective work and getting stories from Lazy Dragon and the Oddity. And it was a pretty effective first reveal of Bloat. But there are just too many problems for me to ignore.
Final Rating: 2/5