Review: Marvel Premiere #44

Marvel Premiere #44 cover
Cover by Mike Zeck and Rudy Nebres

Marvel Premiere #44
Published and © by Marvel, October 1978

Title: “The Jack of Hearts!”
Synopsis: Jack of Hearts saves capsized boaters before heading home for an eventual battle with an assassin named Jonathan Hemlock.

Writer: Bill Mantlo
Penciler: Keith Giffen
Inker: Rudy Nebres

Review: An average story on its own merits, this done-in-one scene-setter does a nice job of establishing a fuller world for Jack of Hearts. This issue was clearly looking to launch the perennial Bronze Age guest star into his own series. Writer Bill Mantlo offers a quick recap of the character’s history while showcasing Jack’s powers, tech and base of operations. Mantlo also adds details including a S.H.I.E.L.D.-agent butler. The art is likewise strong; Keith Giffen’s clean design sense meshes well with Ruby Nebres’ lush rendering. Despite a subpar villain, it’s surprising this didn’t prove to be a stronger springboard.

Grade: B+

Second opinion: “The word for Jack of Hearts is ‘refreshing.’ ” – Lyle Chesney, The Comics Journal #43, December 1978 …“Whilst Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen’s Jack of Hearts in 44 makes the grade, it is seriously at odds with the character’s treatment in the later miniseries.” – The Slings & Arrows Comic Guide (second edition), 2003

Cool factor: Jack of Heart’s costume straddles the line between ridiculous and cool.
Not-so-cool factor: Hemlock’s concern for his plants is quite silly.

Notable: The “First Class Mail” letters page features a Jack of Hearts model sheet by Dave Cockrum and a “Dealing From the Top of the Deck” essay by Bill Mantlo.

Collector’s note: According to the Grand Comics Database, there is a 12p British variant of this issue. … According to MyComicShop.com, there is also a Mark Jewelers variant.

Character quotable: “You blithering nit! You’ve destroyed my prize orchids! They took me years to breed!” – Jonathan Hemlock, assassin prime and gardening enthusiast

Editor’s note: This review was written Feb. 14, 2021.

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