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The Complete Jon Sable, Freelance: Vol. 2
Review by Christopher J. Shelton

Jon Sable cover
The Complete Jon Sable, Freelance: Vol. 2

Mike Grell
Mike Grell
Janice Cohen
Peter Iro and Ken Bruzenak

IDW Publishing
Softcover Collection
Publish Date
June 29, 2005
Cover Price
The Complete Jon Sable, Freelance Vol. 2, which re-presents issues 7 through 11 of the original series, kept me somewhat entertained. I initially doubted that I would enjoy the book, since Jon Sable is a character that I had bypassed in the ‘80s. I read mainly Marvel and DC titles back then. I also worried that starting with the second volume that I would miss out on needed origin material. Despite the doubt, I bought the book about the freelance mercenary/gun-for-hire because he was a creation of Mike Grell.

I had no idea who Mike Grell was back in the early ‘80s, but he was making noise with runs on Green Lantern/Green Arrow and Superboy in the early ‘70s. He created The Warlord in the mid ‘70s and enjoyed a long run with a solo Green Arrow title, which lasted till the mid ‘90s. I first saw Grell’s work on the deluxe DC miniseries Green Arrow and The Longbow Hunters. I loved the detail and realistic look Grell gave the characters in this Green Arrow miniseries, and after reading this second Jon Sable collection, I could see that he gave the same attention to those characters.

Unfortunately, no origin material is included in this second volume and that omission left me a little lost. I discovered on the Internet that Sable suffered a loss when his family was killed by ivory poachers. I immediately thought about the similarity to the Punisher from Marvel Comics. Criminals killed the Punisher’s family, but he became more of a vigilante afterwards than a mercenary for hire. Other details about Sable, introduced in the first volume, like his being a popular children’s author, can be discovered throughout the course of the second volume. Adding a foreword with origin material, or a recap of volume one, would’ve been a nice invitation to new readers

Without the background information, I pictured Sable as a James Bond-like character without the flair or panache. In the book, he traveled in the company of beautiful women; he got into fist fights with brutish thugs; he expertly used his gun and knife; and he often had to escape an explosion. The comparison to James Bond really came into play when Sable is shown playing a game of cards in Monaco. All of the James Bond-like characteristics are what made volume two entertaining. I liked that the violence wasn’t overt. Action stories from the ‘80s could still be good even if they didn’t have some in-your-face Pulp Fiction-like violence, and these Jon Sable stories fell into that good category.

In addition to the James Bond characteristics, the story mix was also a good plus. Chapters one and five are stand alone stories and chapters two through four form one story arc. In chapter one, Jon has to protect a beautiful stripper who witnessed the murder of her husband, a man twice her age. They both end up hiding out in an office building and Sable has to fight off attacks from eight thugs. In chapters two through four Sable takes on a para-military group, and in chapter five he meets the mysterious and alluring jewel thief, Maggie the Cat. She was one of my favorites and her storyline was a good change of pace in the book.

Jon Sable: The CatI always remembered Mike Grell’s Green Arrow art as having very fine pencils. He duplicated that quality effort in this second Jon Sable collection. Grell pays close attention to detail with his art. He uses long, thin, detail lines which are seen more in the close-up shots of his characters. The art comes across as somewhat elegant and sophisticated, a perfect fit for a mercenary like Jon Sable. My favorite art moment was the double-splash page of Jon Sable holding a gun on the beautiful terrorist Falana who had been sleeping. The shock on her face is hilarious.

Yet Grell's art isn't all perfect. For example, my least favorite art moment was the scene with Jon Sable and Grey Adler, the roommate of Sable’s co-worker, artist, Myke Blackmon. Sable and Adler facial features were just too similar for me. If their hair had been the same color I would’ve had trouble telling them a part.

Bonus Features
The collection features a fancy Jon Sable embossed cover by creator Mike Grell. The only extras inside are the cover reproductions.
Final Words

I think The Complete Jon Sable, Freelance: Vol. 2 is a good snapshot of what the character, Jon Sable, is all about. I was disappointed that the book did not include a back story at the beginning. Despite the lack of origin material, I thought the book was a good read. With Mike Grell at the artist’s helm, you can’t go wrong. The price for the five-issue, slick-looking softcover collection is a hefty but understandable $19.99. Between the two original Jon Sable titles, which ran for a good portion of the ‘80s, I missed out on a total of 83 issues. After reading this latest collection, I’ve got 78 more issues to catch up on, and I see that The Complete Jon Sable, Freelance: Vol. 3 will be out in September, 2005. Well all I can say is, “Hit me baby one more time!”


Once nicknamed Richie Rich, Christopher Shelton (email) nowadays wishes he had gotten Richie’s money, instead of the nickname, so he could support his comic buying habit. Born under the Year of the Monkey, his favorite B—list comic book characters include Iron Fist, Paladin, and the Human Fly. Christopher has worked as a movie extra in Spider-Man and Renaissance Man. He’s been a radio disc jockey who has spun tunes in the alternative format among others. He’s also tackled the production side of radio, working in sports talk and in news talk. He’s currently climbing the copyediting/writing ladder in San Diego.
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