Indie Comics Spotlight: Jirni, Noctua, ’68 Jungle Jim


by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Jirni #1
Every pilgrim reaches the end of their journey. It’s not the end that people typically pay the most attention to; it’s the journey itself. Aspen Comics is offering readers a glimpse at a magical journey in the new series Jirni #1. The new series is written by J.T. Krul, with illustrations by Paolo Pantalena, colors by Brett Smith and letters by Josh Reed.

Trekking through a violent and dangerous frontier of savage barbarians, devious thieves and wild creatures, a warrior-princess named Ara searches for her mother, who was stolen away from her kingdom by a mysterious sorcerer with the help of his powerful D’jinn. What great and terrible secrets await her in the distant horizon? Prepare to experience an epic tale of fantasy and wonder without boundaries. This is Ara’s quest. This is Ara’s destiny.

Krul’s first issue is definitely imaginative. It taps into a vastly creative type of storytelling where Krul conceives of an entire world, rife with politics, magic and travel. Ara is sufficiently capable of handling herself in her quest to find her mother and the D’jinn appears to be a monster. Her quest is unique enough though that the series should be a rather interesting read.

Pantalena’s art is very fantastical. Panels are chock full of key players and scenery, with a few of panels showcasing some crazy intense battles. The issue does suffer from some oversexing of some of the characters. In Jirni, all the women are scantily clad and busty, while the men are muscle-bound and burly. The D’jinn is illustrated with an excess of fury, presenting him as a character that will need to be contended with.

Overall, Jirni #1 is worth checking out. It’s a new series from Aspen and it’s got some promise, relying on a fantasy world that features an interesting main character in Ara. Seeking out her mom will make for an interesting journey and readers will want to make sure they’re starting at the beginning. Not only that, but it’s an Aspen “10 for 10” book, which means it’ll only set you back $1 as well.

Jirni #1 is in stores now.

Noctua #1
The likelihood of humans co-existing with vampires sure isn’t looking very promising. True Blood is probably the most famous work in production now tackling that thorny issue and next season looks like relations will get even more strained. Noctua #1 from Alterna Comics is another book looking at that relationship–only this one has a slight twist. The issue is written by Andrew M. Henderson, with pencils and inks by Orlando Baez, colors by Eagle Gosselin and letters by David Paul.

The year is 2051. A new strain of virus has mutated 5% of the Earth’s population into creatures of the night. Vampires, as their detractors call them, tentatively co-exist alongside humans thanks to Aeternus Eternus, a synthetic form of sustenance created by Biotech giant Imago Labs. But for some, nothing can truly replace the taste of fresh blood…fresh human blood. As the illegal blood trade rises, a new predator takes to the streets. One, which even the Vampires themselves, fear. Those who have seen him and lived to tell about it can only utter one word to describe the winged avenger, hell-bent on ridding the world of their people.

While the book thrusts humans and non-humans side-by-side, they still encounter the same typical problems. Noctua #1 starts off as a book about human trafficking, then it becomes a superhero book, then it becomes a police procedural and then it finishes as a mobster style coup story. It’s a lot crammed into the first issue and readers may have been eased in a bit better if certain aspects of the story were held until the second issue. It’s not confusing, but it feels disconnected as it flows from one concept to another.

Noctua himself is something of a vampire crusader feared by the vampires. Why exactly he’s against the vampires when he appears to share something with them is a little unclear; it’s presumed he just has a complex about humans being something more than just food. He’s introduced to someone who will likely serve as a foil for him as a character, her innocence juxtaposed with his uncanny ability to kill vampires. The infighting amongst the vampires is pretty standard, with some of them of the mindset that humans should really just be blood banks and nothing else. It’s a forced conflict that will set the stage for events down the road.

Baez’s pencils are a little tough to make out in some panels. There’s a lot of work that is just very dark and buried beneath a sea of word balloons, which is a shame because some of the work is actually pretty good. Noctua shows off a variety of fighting styles and the vampires are illustrated rather spindly. The action features some interesting fight scenes but, again, some of them are really hard to make out because of the darkness of the panels.

Noctua #1 has the potential to be something interesting if it settles down a bit and realizes what it is that it really wants to be. Vampire society, police book, superhero story or mobster war; the issue tries to do all four things and gets bogged down by it all. Hopefully, the second issue levels out a bit and things get more consistent, as the first issue is a little all over the place.

Noctua #1 is slated to hit comiXology in May.

’68: Jungle Jim #1
Vietnam is a rather dark place in American history. It was a war nobody wanted and generated atrocities that still haunt us to this day. One thing created in the chaos of the fighting that probably goes a little unnoticed though was zombies. The shambling soldiers get full attention in ’68: Jungle Jim #1 from Image Comics. The issue is written by Mark Kidwell, with illustrations by Jeff Zornow, colors by Jay Fotos and letters by Jason Arthur.

Vietnam, 1968: Behind enemy lines, Private Brian Curliss is alone. The enemy caged him, the dead want to devour him and the voices in his head are driving him to madness. A madness that emerges in the form of an unstoppable killing machine wrapped in burlap and bamboo. Curliss is a one-man-army, sworn to wade through a wet red jungle gone straight to hell in search of a ghost named Jungle Jim. To the Viet Cong, he’s a nightmare. To POWs trapped in enemy hands, he’s salvation. To the legions of shambling, hungry dead; he’s the Grim Reaper in a gas mask.

Zombies are being ret-conned into more and more historical events, so why should the Vietnam War be any exception? Kidwell’s hero is extremely skilled at combat, with a penchant for self-reflection and narration. As a character, he’s got all the chops needed to be a soldier. Unfortunately, he’s a little formulaic when it comes to everything else, spouting off clever one-liners as he dispatches the undead. The story itself doesn’t really explain why the zombies are roaming the Vietnam countryside and a small village looks to be the setting for something bigger.

Zornow’s art is violent and gory; exactly what you’d want/expect from a book focused on zombies. There’s a variety of gore in here as well, with Curliss making sure to dispatch of his enemies with variety and a flair for the intense. The panels have an old-school feel to them as well, helping to set the reader in the world of the Vietnam War. If you can get around the excess of blood, the book is actually illustrated quite well.

The first of a four-issue miniseries doesn’t really tread new ground when it comes to war or zombies. It does present a hero who’s likable enough despite his stereotypical failings in a world that doesn’t really want to like him. Whether the zombie threat is sussed out or just maintains a presence as a backdrop for the story remains to be seen, but at least you know you’ll be getting lots of them as cannon fodder.

’68: Jungle Jim #1 is in stores now.

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