Hero, Narcissist, Psychopath, or Just Plain Stupid?
Originally published at The Hub City Review
A few hours prior to writing this review I took some nootropics for the first time in well over a week. Two to be precise, in addition to a caffeine concentrate claiming on the box to burn fat. After the seasons festivities, marked by a two-day pub crawl across the entire isle of Manhattan, hitting every speakeasy in, above, and below the city, it was much needed damage control. A few more binges like such or Boston before it and my respectable 28” waistline will be resembling Jacked protagonist Josh Jaffe’s bulging beer belly before long. Countless Christmas confections certainly didn’t help matters either, so the plan was to warm-up with an easy eight miles, then really work on my biceps.
I knew I’d be penning my thoughts on Kripke and Higgins’ latest issue over a glass of whiskey at some watering hole. What I didn’t know was if there’d be potential company among the co-ed clientele seeking companionship for the evening. Why risk arms slightly too small and scrawny? After all, a gut a too fat and flabby by a few millimeters might not make the difference, but then again it might; why risk a lonely night?
Jaffe “boflexed the fuck out of the boflex” popping one pill only. I lasted a measly four miles on two and my curls could best be counted as anemic. He and I are experiencing a roll reversal right now: my once surprisingly surreal reality slipping slowly away, replaced by mundanity and middling workouts, piles of pills powerless to prevent the inevitable; his everyman existence extinguished, effortlessly energized and empowered to enter the belly of the whale, having last issue answered already the call to adventure.
But Jacked is no origin story; it’s a six issue miniseries, self-contained. Even without such meta-knowledge Jaffe’s arc is easy enough to ascertain. Like mine, his hero’s journey is sure to prove a path circuitous, a star shinning but briefly. There are subtle foreshadows throughout the issue that the mountaintop on which he now stands can lead only downhill ere long. Jaffe wonders to himself whether Jacked has any potential side effects, whether it’s dangerous. While his own immediate response numbers among my own personal mantas – “Fuck it” – Kripke’s sure to answer that question quite differently soon.
But before the fall cometh pride, and Jaffe has plenty of cause for hubris, here and hinted at. He fucked his wife on the wrong side of fifty with the same tantric intensity that I have now in my twenties. Then he did something I never had. Even in the emotional fog of hormonal imbalance, moods swinging like some pubescent adolescent, I was ever the diplomat, de-escalating conflicts, even when I could have handily handed the other guy his ass; even when he would have deserved as much. But Jaffe hardly hesitates, his wife-beating neighbor beating nearly half to death. The subsequent narration boxes peel back his inner monologue:
In real life, people who put themselves in harms’ way? They may be narcissists, or psychotic, or just plain stupid, But they’re not heroes. There’s no such thing.”
Juxtaposed against such musing are images of Jaffe preforming ostensibly heroic deeds, placing himself in harms’ way as he hunts down gun-toting members of a cocaine cartel. The question such implicitly poses to the reader is whether Jaffe is a hero, narcissist, psychopath, or just plain stupid. Based on personal experience, I’m guessing a bit of “all of the above.”