Jack the Jackrabbit isn’t entirely sure how he traveled to the Chihuahuan Desert from his birthplace on the Texan Gulf Coast, but there’s no time to acclimate in the harsh environment. Together, with a wacky Kangaroo Rat named Mel, all the jackrabbit wants is to avoid being eaten, but the predators are circling already. Can the boys make it through the desert nights? Is rain really the source of nightmares? And, does Mel really have a point about a vast conspiracy to keep the herbivore down? You’ll have to read Jack to find out!
I had no expectations about Jack going into my reading, other than thinking that creator Chris Ruggia was a sweet, delightful gentleman when we met at STAPLE! Austin. I haven’t read many stories with talking animals since I was a child (Wind in the Willows, anyone?), but the mixture of zoology, a love of the region, and fun storytelling sold me. I’m a Mel fan just because his crazy theories and fantasies made me laugh out loud, but I can’t deny that Jack is easy to identify with in his everyman role, well, if everyman were prey! The big-eared lead also provides a way for readers unfamiliar with Big Bend or West Texas to click with the story, since Jack is as new to everything as they are. The last few pages of each volume, as well as the fun comic panels, include scientific info on the featured animals, plus character development sketches.
Ruggia’s artwork is black and white, but it never feels lacking, because the meticulous inking and background work. The blend of realism with cartoonishness looks adorable and definitely helps tone down the darkness of the main plot: everything wants to eat Jack and Mel! The print quality of each book is good, as well, and even though some of the panels are a little small, no detail seems to have been lost.
If you can’t tell that I loved this love letter to the westernmost portion of my home state, I haven’t expressed myself well enough! Jack: Adventures in Texas’ Big Bend is cute, sweet, fun, and full of all the stuff from National Geographic specials without the obvious mating or death of prey. It may be too complex for the youngest readers, but I think it’s a great introduction to some of the wildlife of Big Bend for kids six or seven and up. Besides, they’re billed as “All Natural Free Range Comics,” so they’re good for you!
For more information about Chris Ruggia and his work, visit www.jackcomics.com.
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