Nathan Edmondson and Tonci Zonjic’s Who is Jake Ellis? is a first rate action/espionage tale that spans the globe, but always keeps a clear focus on its main characters. The plot is centered around Jon Moore and his unorthodox partner-in-crime, Jake Ellis. As the title alludes to, much of the story is about the identity of Jake Ellis, and as the story should be, Jake Ellis’ whole existence is one big mystery.
Writer: Nathan Edmondson
Artist: Tonci Zonjic
Jake plays the role of guardian angel and voice-inside-the-head of protagonist Jon Moore. They share a seemingly inexplicable bond as Jake Ellis is always there, watching over Jon, unwavering and omnipresent. What begins as fun and games (not really, but there’s plenty of explosions) becomes a quest for the truth, and the reader is privileged enough to join in along the way. Moore is reluctant to embark on this quest, which is understandable, as it seems that every international organization (legal or otherwise) is out to get him.
The opening sequence of this book is one of the most memorable in recent memory. We see an action scene unfold, and it all makes sense, but we wonder what the protagonist has that gives him an advantage. All of a sudden the scene unfolds, with the presence of Jake Ellis, Jon Moore’s ghostly personal aide. Imagine if Batman’s Oracle was invisible, standing beside you and feeding you information with a healthy dose of hidden agenda. No one knows about Ellis except Moore, and even he doesn’t know how their bond works. All that is made clear is that Ellis has been helping Moore for several years ever since they escaped from some sort of facility. Their mutual life since then has been one of globetrotting and organized crime, which is one thing you can do if you have a helper like Ellis.
The action mostly takes place in Europe, giving it an international feeling evocative of the Bourne series mashed up with The Sixth Sense. It’s surprising to note that this hasn’t yet been optioned as a movie, as the length and content are pitch-perfect for an espionage film. Spies who are criminals and vice versa make the ideal anti-hero that people love to root for (as opposed to the perfect ant-hero!). The settings and locales are lushly illustrated by Tonci Zonji, and I’ll discuss that at lengths further into the review, but it is of merit here to mention that the book’s locations would not have had such a resounding sense of reality if it weren’t for the art.
Nathan Edmonson populates Who is Jake Ellis? with all the fancy trimmings that an international espionage story should have. There are beautiful women, snappy dialogue, large action set pieces, clandestine facilities, and at least one ear-thumping club scene. Clichés abound in the spy genre, but because of the deeply personal psychological relationship that exists between Jon Moore and Jake Ellis, the whole genre is elevated to something more artistic. This isn’t even done at the expense of the things that make spy stories fun, as the above laundry list of items will testify.
Tonci Zonjic’s aforementioned art contributes in a very important way that leaves little to the imagination of the reader. It is clear, critical and can range from up-close aggravated personal expressions to extreme wide shots with barely visible subjects that often used as establishing images followed by the close-ups. He manages to give the reader a strong sense of location, establishing place, while at the same time giving us a great rapport with the main characters. All in all, we feel present for the action, and there isn’t much more that an artist can do to guide along their audience.
The bottom line is that this book is a fresh take on the spy-with-no-memory tale. It manages to involve the reader through both the narrative and the art, and in the meantime Who is Jake Ellis? is also intensely personal while maintaining it’s story on a grand scale. I think its fair to say that this book works because it never loses sight of it’s characters, and even when revelations come and secrets are revealed, the heart of the story remains the same.