This is a review of the recently released Jennifer Blood: Born Again #1 by Steven Grant and Kewber Baal and will contain spoilers.
On the surface, the character of Jennifer Blood isn't much more than a female Punisher or a gun toting version of the Huntress. Her origin is a mix of the two with her mob father marrying her mother and then killed by "the family" because he was perceived as having gone soft. The mother committed suicide only after telling the daughter, Jessica Blute, to go into hiding as the mob cleans up loose ends. Jessica staged her own death and took on the name Jennifer Bell. She began training for a revenge mission against the mob but fell in love with an accounting teacher and started a family. She took on the persona of Jennifer Blood so she could be a housewife by day and a revenge-crazed vigilante at night.
The character was created by Garth Ennis and Dynamite Entertainment published 36 issues (5 trades so far) of the series before bringing it to an end. But it seems the publisher ended the main series so they could do a retooling of the series at the hands of Steven Grant, the writer of the original Punisher mini-series drawn by Mike Zeck in 1985-86.
The rest of this review will contain spoilers so bail now.
Jennifer Blood: Born Again #1 hit the shelves this week and there was good and bad between the covers. The concept is strong. It picks up from the previous series. Her husband is dead, her kids are with their uncle and she is in hiding in a cult/commune in the Alps under the name Charlene Chess. She discovers that a wannabe mob boss and his dominatrix girlfriend are using her persona to take over the crime families in Los Angeles. So she borrow's money from her creepy cult leader and bails to Los Angeles. The cult leader then puts a hit out on her.
Now I have often said in reviews that "it's not Shakespeare", but this time it is. Not the quality of the writing but rather the villains. Dominating female pushes her less-than-ambitious mate up the chain of command through murder and deceit until he is at the top. It's basically MacBeth, to the point that the dominatrix says "Jennifer Blood will make you King of the City. And I will be your queen." Now don't get me wrong, the Scottish Play (as called by anyone performing it) is one of my all-time favorites and using it as the motivation for the villains is a good call. Here the difference is that Paulie McEnery (Macbeth) is basically a coward and the unnamed dominatrix (Lady Macbeth) is doing all the killing.
I like the set-up quite a bit. Blood has basically been out of the game and in hiding but is forced back into it when someone starts posing as her. But not much actually happens in the first issue and very little of it with the main character… though you don't realize it until later on. For a first issue there really wasn't much to make me want to come back for a second… no one I like or want to follow. Not enough of the real Jennifer Blood to care about her yet. McErery's cowardice makes him despicable, where Macbeth was a war hero and a good man caught up by his overly-ambitious wife. If I stick around it's because Steven Grant has earned my faith and respect and I can give him another issue to get me hooked. And Kewber Baal's art work is good, fits the story well and he does a good job having his characters express their emotions. At times it reminds me of Darick Robertson's work on The Boys, but Baal is not quite there yet and needs to show more consistency panel to panel.
For more on Jennifer Blood: Born Again, click here.