Friday, January 8, 2016



[This review originally appeared on Patreon.]

STORY/ART: Mike Grell
LETTERS: Peter Iro
COLORS: Janice Cohen
EDITOR: Mike Gold
32pp, Color, $1.00 U.S., $1.25 CAN (June 1983)

“The Iron Monster!”

Jon Sable, Freelance was a comic book series created, written, and drawn by Mike Grell.  In 1983, it was one of the first comic book series released by the then fledgling publisher, First Comics.  The series lasted 56 issues from 1983 to 1988.  There was a follow-up series (Sable) and a reprint series (Mike Grell's Sable).   After the demise of First Comics, Grell produced new comics either featuring or starring Jon Sable, including two miniseries over the last decade.

Jon Sable, Freelance focused on Jonathan Sable, a bounty hunter and mercenary who previously had been an athlete in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.  After living, working, and experiencing tragedy in Africa, Sable returned to the United States.  He became a freelance mercenary, but led a secret, double life as “B.B. Flemm,” children's book author.

Jon Sable, Freelance #1 (“The Iron Monster!”) opens with Sable as “B.B. Flemm” being interviewed by a New York City television station.  Returning home that night, he finds three intruders whom he quickly dispatches.  However, the men were a test from someone who wants to be Sable's latest client.

Although he is not addressed directly by name, President Ronald Reagan is that client.  The President is scheduled to speak before the United Nations the following evening, but he has information that there will be an assassination attempt on him.  Sable accepts the assignment to stop the assassin, who turns out to be someone with whom Sable once worked.

Jon Sable, Freelance, as I remember it, had some similarities to a television crime drama.  It was like a combination of CBS' “The Equalizer,” NBC's “Banacek,” and a little of ABC's “Hart to Hart.”  The series read like a weekly drama, even when the story ran over more than one issue.  There was a soap opera quality to Jon Sable, Freelance, but instead of melodrama, there is a sense of mystery.

I think what made the series such an attractive read was Mike Grell's lush artwork.  His solid draftsmanship was defined by tight compositions, smooth brushwork, and delicate feathering.  The art often had a painterly quality, so the graphical storytelling sometimes seemed like narrative painting.  Every panel informed the reader than Jon Sable, Freelance was a labor of love by Grell.

I found Jon Sable, Freelance #1 at the Louisiana Comic Con in Lafayette, LA (October 17th and 18th, 2015), and it only cost me one dollar.  I hope I encounter the retailer, Big M Comics (?), at another convention.  He had lots of issues of Jon Sable, Freelance.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

The text is copyright © 2015 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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