Story: Paul Tobin
Art: Alberto Albuquerque
Colors: Mark Englert
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
What They Say:
A verifiable math genius, Jack Beans used to run the numbers for the Pinafore crime family, until one day he ran them too well and concluded that the only way out of this life was in a casket or Witness Protection. So, he turned state’s evidence and ran.
Now, the Pinafores are out to end their favorite accountant. Little do they know that Jack’s skills with math and his perfect memory have made him a better killer than they ever could have realized. What follows is a journey full of murder, mayhem and mathematics.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
While I’ve had mixed success with Paul Tobin’s works overall as some work and some don’t, the quality of both is generally pretty strong and that marks it worth taking the risk on something new. With A Calculated Man, we’re getting something real-world with a mild twist that leans on Tobin’s strength in character work. Removing the strange and surreal helps a lot because the dialogue and dense nature of the book is what makes it work the most. It also works well in having Alberto Albuquerque on the art duties. I’ve enjoyed some of their work before, notably with Letter 44, so getting something grounded like this definitely makes for a good time in seeing how they handle a crime story. A Calculated Man has a lot going for it in the concept and the opening issue sets up things in a big way.
The story is told a little out of order but with some decent framing as a retiring federal marshal, Omaha Avery, is handing over the file on Jack Beans to the up and coming untested rookie, Elene Santos. The two get fleshed out well while just talking about Jack and his case over the course of it and they’re shown every now and then amid things, though often just left to narration, with everything coming full circle at the end. You get a good handle on both and like them well enough while also getting it made clear that Jack Beans, a name used for his witness protection life, is someone to really think of as being formidable in a charming and really accessible way. The man is one who cannot tell a lie but is able to engage with people in the strangest of ways that may be off-putting but at the same time draw you in. That he’s a former criminal syndicate accountant is just another piece of data.
The idea is that he left that world upon realizing he couldn’t have a normal life or girlfriend so he went and orchestrated things so that he’d take down the opposing syndicate of the one he worked for and that would ease things for him heading off on his own. But now, after all three years in WITSEC, the Pinnafore family of the gang known as The Keys has found him and started sending some assassins to get him. Because he’s just a numbers guy there’s definitely confidence there but Jack is the type that sees solutions in things with his analytical mind. But he’s one that knows mistakes can happen and that there are variables, which he builds into his plans, which we see as he subdues one of his would-be assassins and uses him to deal with the others and to cause more problems that should give him some time to reset his life. It’s all very smooth, and probably too smooth, but with Jack’s quirky nature if manages to work surprisingly well, up to and including his meeting of the new agent taking over his case.
A Calculated Man is off to a very solid start. What we get here is a familiar concept to be sure with what it’s doing but it’s executed well. The combination of the dialogue and the look for the amusingly named Jack Beans is a draw from there while getting to see things from the WITSEC site of things helps to give it some balance. But this issue mostly focuses on background and introduction while allowing Jack to manipulate a situation to his advantage. The gifted genius trope is pretty familiar but it can be played with well depending on how you approach it. I think Tobin and Albuquerque have a solid take here that could work well as time goes on with it and I’m interested in seeing what kinds of twists and turns are brought into it.
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: AfterShock Comics
Release Date: June 15th, 2022