Wisdom #4

Issue Date: 
May 2007
Story Title: 
The Rudiments of Wisdom – part four: Too Many Jacks

Paul Cornell (writer), Manuel Garcia (penciler), Mark Farmer (inker), Guru eFX (colorist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (letterer), Nick Lowe (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

The members of MI-13 are informed that there is an odd energy source from another universe. They follow the trace and, shortly after Maureen breaks up with Pete, they find it in James Ransom, a Jack the Ripper fan and thoroughly unpleasant human being. Later, Ransom’s power is revealed, as subconsciously he begins to draw Jack the Rippers from all kinds of universes. While the other members of MI-13 fight the Rippers to save innocent bystanders, Maureen enters Ransom’s mind to stop the effect. She succeeds, but realizes that there is something else hiding within his mind, something that wants her. Ransom realizes that those beings are his true masters and he opens a door for them. Tentacled beings try to come through, but Maureen slams the door shut at he last moment. The next day, Wisdom reports this story at a Joint Committee meeting. Tensions are high-strung, due to the antipathy between Wisdom and Stuart, whom he considers a traitor for leaving MI-13 in favour of MI-6. Wisdom has barely finished his story when Clive Reston and Jack Tarr, MI-6 agents, leave in a hurry. Later, Pete visits Maureen’s flat, only to learn from her son, Jonathan, that she’s been kidnapped… by Reston and Tarr.

Full Summary: 

Wisdom’s report:

Wisdom and his team find themselves surrounded by a bizarre menagerie of men, mostly dressed in Victorian costumes (and really only mostly human). So what I should have said, Pete Wisdom narrates, is ” Will the real Jack the Ripper please stand up?”

Whitehall today, a Joint Intelligence Committee meeting of the Weird Happenings Special Interest Group:

He’s amazed Pete didn’t say that, Sir Clive Reston of MI-6 states unkindly. Wisdom reminds him that he was up to his arse in Jack the Rippers. He had misplaced his little book of calm. Do they get a better standard of wit in MI-6? They get a better standard of everything, Alistaire Stuart, scientific advisor of MI-6 remarks. New boy always gets the best stuff, Pete needles. The rest of them, the ones who stayed at their post… they just have to make do.

Sir Mortimer Grimsdale, J.I.C. chair demands the meeting come to an order. They are now on record.

He begins that they are here to discuss the Rippers, at the request of their friends from MI-6. He asks Pete to start from the beginning and instructs the record to delete any further attempts at bonmots.

Pete narrates that their Quartermaster O found it for them.

Wisdom’s report:

One day earlier, O welcomes the members of MI-13. He explains that according to his instruments the barriers between their universe and one of the others is weakening. His I Ching agrees. The I Ching is true? Maureen Raven asks, exasperated. Is there anything that isn’t true? Pete Wisdom, Tink quips. Very droll. Is she doing anything later, asks John the Skrull. Him probably, Tink admits. Unless she’s happy and sober. All donations gratefully accepted, he retorts.

Do they know which universe? Pete asks the scientist, who actually doesn’t. Don’t they have like post codes or something, Pete asks. O explains that they only know there is an energy trace which completes the same circuit of Whitechapel in London, six times a week and twice on Sundays. Captain Midlands observes gruffly that in his day they only had the one universe. Now it’s like satellite telly. There’s billions of ‘em. And they’re all shite.


Stuart interrupts, asking whether MI-13’s quartermaster conducts original occults physics research? In his sparetime? Pete shrugs. Like he said. They make do. Sir Clive makes a crack about an enthusiastic amateur and Pete abuses him with coarse language. Ignoring Grimsdale’s admonishing Pete shouts whether Reston knows what the problem is with his hidden agenda. It isn’t hidden. He wants his lot in MI-6 to handle the weird shit. “Cos it’s abroad.” So they play him. They send Shang Chi with some half-arsed prophecy about his karma and he brings this traitor… he points at Stuart who jumps up agitated, demanding whether Pete just said traitor. Did he use that word?

Pete is given pause for a moment. Then he clarifies. A traitor to him. And he shouldn’t have said it. He’s been… on unsteady ground lately.

Wisdom’s report:

Yesterday. In the streets of London, Pete and Maureen are walking. She has just dropped a bombshell. Pete insists she can’t just say she wants to break up. What they have is good, isn’t it? Maureen replies that in her dreams there’s a man. She thinks it’s him. If she gets close… terrible things… After what Shang-Chi said about Pete engineering his own downfall… it was like he’d seen this awful fate rushing at her.

He’s heard this before, he replies angrily. “Everything I touch turns to shit.” It’s usually him saying it. It’s not true anymore. Maureen insists she needs some distance. For her little boy’s sake. She needs some stability. A good night’s sleep. Pete points out that he’s had dreams about her too. Impending doom… It’s all bollocks. There’s no destiny. No awful fate.

Hoy, Sidney aka Captain Midlands in his civilian identity calls to them, as he joins them with the rest of the team. He asks them what completes the same circuit of Whitechapel six times a week and twice on Sundays and points to the answer. An overweight man, dressed in black Victorian style garb and advertising for a “Jack the Ripper” walking tour of London called “Rippermania walking tours.”

The man plays it up for the tourists, warning them that his route is not very politically correct, if they know what he means. There is violence and a bit of how’s your father from the outset. All manner of things they’re not supposed to say these days.

An amused Sid remarks his name is James Ransom. Man after his own heart.

Ransom continues his spiel to the crowd that has gathered, informing them that one of the Ripper’s victims, Polly Nichols, was killed in front of what used to be a stable here. Forty-three, she was. Mutton dressed as lamb. They wouldn’t know a thing about her, apart from a certain passing interest of Mr Saucy Jack. Lucky girl.

He continues naming the next victim. Annie Chapman. A drunken whore, who’d just been in a fight. The line between your common tart and your common housewife was a tad blurry. Some things never change. Eh? Eh?

Elizabeth Stride. Swedish. Your untouchable Nordic goddess. In her forties and full of the clap. You wouldn’t want to give her one. But old Jack did.

The members of MI-13 are all disgusted by now. Even Sid admits that’s not right. Tink asks if she can kill him, but it’s Maureen who’s addressing Ransom. Angrily pointing at him, she asks him if it was all right those women were killed just because they werein the game. How things were then, it’s hard to identify which were Ripper victims.

Just a bit of fun, Ransom replies defensively. No need to take it so serious. That’s his career, celebrating a serial sex killer, Mo points out. Is his Mum proud?

She manages to chase him away, while Wisdom, looking at an energy analyzer hidden in his watch, informs Sid that he was right. Ransom is the energy trace link. And it just surged. As Mo returns, even Tink admits that she did well. But she still hates her.

Maureen informs them that there are big barriers around Ransom’s mind, but she could tell without taking him over, that he doesn’t know. He thinks he is the definition of normality. As she gets into a taxi, Wisdom remarks that they know where to find him. He’ll send the readings to O. About those dreams.… She asks him not to go there.

Later, Pete sits down in his flat, dejected and guzzling a beer. He stares at a picture of himself and Kitty Pryde. The phone sits next to it. Nah. History, he decides with another sip of beer.

In Cricklewood, Tink is getting something from the fridge. At her flat in Kew, Maureen tucks in her son, Jonathan, and then gets a phone call from a drunken Pete. She suggests they talk about it tomorrow. Suddenly, both women are attacked from behind by a knife-wielding man in Victorian garb.

Tink shoots him (apparently even keeping a gun in her dressing gown), whereas Mo uses her psychic powers to take out her assailant, forcing him to slit his own throat.

Shocked she tells Pete on the phone that she just killed Jack the Ripper, only to learn that so did Tink.

Hearing her son awake, she tells him it’s ok. She just dropped something. She proceeds to describe her assailant, saying he looks like he’s from the 1960s, an actor in some horror movie. So why does she feel he and she have something in common? Despite her order, Jonathan peeps out of his room and sees the body.

The present.

Wisdom explains that they found the actor in question on the I.M.D.B. He played the Ripper in a minor British film. Seeing Jack Tarr and Sir Clive whisper animatedly, he asks annoyed if he is interrupting them. Did he say something of particular interest? Without replying, they shoot him dirty looks. Alistaire Stuart begins to talk, stating that those were Rippers from other universes. Flesh and Blood. That one was from a universe where that horror movie was real. And the other butcherlike one that attacked Tink, that’s “Leather Apron,” isn’t it? Another serial killer of the time. Some think he was also the Ripper. Sharp as always, Wisdom replies. Took MI-13 a bit more research, that one. At least two clicks on Wikipedia. So next, they did the obvious…

Wisdom’s report:

…Namely attacking Ransom in his bedroom. Captain Midlands wakes him rather rudely. Holding him by his shirt, he threateningly asks Ransom what he did. Nothing, the man replies defensively. He’s just a Ripperologist. A historian. Wisdom asks if anything strange has ever happened to him. Anything involving radioactivity, botched chemistry homework, angering the dark gods?

Ransom recalls being hit by lightning last year. He’s had strange dreams ever since. He begins to grin with realization. Does this mean he’s a super-villain?

The team detains him and returns to the lab where they are informed that the effect is continuing and growing. It’s beyond Ransom’s control now. His unconscious powers are following his hobby across the universes. Dragging Rippers from other realities. Dozens of them all over London.

Wisdom decides they each take a quarter of the map, and this is when Tink will take orders. She gives him a rude reply, but agrees. He orders her, John and Captain Midlands to engage the Rippers and kill as many as they can. Maureen is to go see Ransom, take over his brain and switch off his powers. Then they need to talk about how she feels. He means… about the situation, Pete concludes lamely.

The present:

Wisdom notes that they wouldn’t believe some of the Ripper theories.

Wisdom’s report:

John the Skrull is fighting a monkey Ripper (with a razor blade) keeping him from the panicked crowd by engulfing them in tentacles. He’s fighting a monkey in Oxford Circus, he marvels. It’s like a metaphor for when he was with the band. He thinks he’s starting to miss Skrull Paul.

Elsewhere, an elderly man in a top hat accosts several prostitutes from a carriage. Would they like to join him for some grapes? he tries to entice them. And perhaps a tour of London’s Masonic architecture. With accompanying scary and/or psychedelic lecture?

Tink steps into the light, rummaging through her bag. Now, here’s an offer. Where did she put it? Hold on, he protests, she’s supposed to be scared. Taking out an impossibly big gun and firing it she mocks, ooh, she could crush a grape.

In a disco, several young women are surrounded by a host of Rippers, pulling off their riff: Our main weapon is surprise! Surprise and fear! Surprise, fear, and a misogynistic hatred of gynaecological detail! Rescue comes in the form of the ever so heroic Captain Midlands.

In the meantime, Pete is about to stop a murder in progress, somewhat taken aback by the fact that his Jack is actually a “Jill.” His hotknives ripping through her, he mutters and there’s the liberal guilt.

At the Combined Services Security Bunker, Maureen has reached Ransom who is tied to a chair. Defensively, he protests that he hasn’t done anything! He’s not responsible. How long are they gonna keep him here? Maureen tries to calm him and claims she wants to help. He just has to let her inside and they can get this over with.

What does she mean, let her inside? he asks nervously and refuses. Maureen apologises and takes over his mind. Welcome to his unconscious, she quips. The Jack the Ripper channel. His mindscape is nothingness and a door through which a line of Jack the Rippers are entering. She suggests he do them both a favour and think about air freshener.

She shuts the door decisively. They’ll need a bolt on this.

In the streets Pete sees another Ripper disappear and thanks Mo.

In Ransom’s mind, Maureen is getting suspicious. This was too easy. What is he hiding? No! What’s been hidden inside him?

Almost spacing out, Ransom mutters that he can hear them now. Them who sent the lightning. They’re talking to him from a universe away. They need them both, there in his head. Maureen to provide a link between their world and ours… but they say he is special. They need him to… open the door for them.

Maureen looks behind her. There’s another door. Before she can stop him, Ransom reaches out and opens it.

Welcome, masters! Welcome to your new world! he states gleefully. A mass of tentacles begins to slither through as he enthuses that they are who made him what he is. They are so Victorian! So murderous! So British!

Desperately, Maureen stems her body against the door and manages to slam it shut… barely.

In the real world she sinks down exhausted.

The present.

Wisdom explains that when Maureen came round she said something about tentacles. She’s at home now. Suddenly, Jack Tarr and Sir Clive Reston jump up and hurry out without a word of explanation. Have they got somewhere more important to be? Wisdom asks annoyed. Stuart reminds him that they’ve saved the nation and the world as often as Pete has and he’s still there and listening. So he can stop being the professional arsehole. Pete glares.

Sir Mortimer interrupts that they are all tired. Why don’t they adjourn until the next day? He asks Pete to give Miss Raven his compliments and regards.

Later, Pete visits Maureen’s flat. As he comes in, he sees the flat’s devastated. He summons hotknives but only finds Maureen’s agitated son, who asks if his mummy is back. Pete asks Jonathan what happened to his Mummy. Was there a fight? Jonathan explains that some men came. They wanted her to go with them, but she wouldn’t. She made him hide. What did they look like, Pete asks, afraid of the answer. One had a moustache. He heard their names: Sir Clive and Mr. Tarr…

Characters Involved: 

Pete Wisdom

Sir Mortimer Grimsdale (JIC chair)

Sir Clive Reston, Alistaire Stuart, Jack Tarr (members of MI-6)

Jonathan Raven

in Wisdom’s report:

Pete Wisdom

Captain Midlands, John the Skrull, Maureen Raven, Tink (Wisdom’s MI-13 team)

O (MI-13 scientist)

James Ransom

All imagineable versions of Jack the Ripper

Story Notes: 

The I Ching (one of several names) is an ancient Chinese text, one of the “Five Classics” of Confucianism. Its interpretations are multifaceted, including philosophical, political and spiritual.

Jack the Ripper was the name given to a murderer who preyed upon prostitutes in the Whitechapel area of London in late 1888. The name of “Jack” is derived from a letter sent to the Central News Agency, written by someone claiming to be the murderer. Though some have disputed that this letter was written by the murderer, the name has still been almost universally applied. After successfully murdering 5 women brutally, the murders stopped and with the culprit never having been publicly caught or identified.
“Ripperologists” is an unofficial term given to people who are fascinated with or investigate into the enduring mystery of the Whitechapel murders. While new theories and books have been offered and published in the more than a century since, few new clues have surfaced.
“Leather Apron” was the alias of a suspect, which in turn was a sort of urban legend among Whitechapel prostitutes. They spoke of a Jew so nicknamed because of the leather apron he wore, and who extorted money from money the prostitutes with threats and actions of violence. What few details the prostitutes could offer led the police to a John Pizer, who offered an iron-clad alibi to the murders and was never arrested.

Alistaire Stuart was always shown to be a man in his late 20ies or 30ies, probably a contemporary of Wisdom, not an elderly Q lookalike as shown here. Presumably an artistic mistake as the writer Paul Cornell himself was surprised at this.

Shang-Chi warned Maureen in issue #3.

Pete had a nightmare about Maureen in issue #2.

Jack the Ripper walking tours of London do exist (though hopefully with more pleasant guides).

I.M.D.B. is the Internet Movie Database

Tink warned Wisdom that she wouldn’t take orders from him anymore last issue.

The gorilla might be a tip of the hat to Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” which isn’t about Jack the Ripper but another killer who turns about to be an orangutan.

The Jack the Ripper that is shot by Tink is a homage / parody of Sir William Gull, the Jack the Ripper from Alan Moore and Eddie Campell’s acclaimed graphic novel From Hell, grapes, architecture and all.

The Rippers in the disco are doing a riff on Monthy Python’s famous Spanish Inquisition sketch.

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