Comics Time: Jin & Jam #1

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Jin & Jam #1

Hellen Jo, writer/artist

Sparkplug Comic Books, 2008

36 pages

$5

Buy it from Sparkplug

The first thing I thought during my initial flip-through of Jin & Jam was “Boy, this person sure likes Taiyo Matsumoto.” Then I started reading from the beginning and the first thing I saw was an epigraph from Black & White, aka Tekkon Kinkreet, by Taiyo Matsumoto. So it’s not like Hellen Jo is trying to hide the influence, which emerges not just in the wiry art and leering character designs but in the plot itself, involving various paired-off tweenage characters gettin’ in trouble and stickin’ it to the man. But we’re not in Matsumoto’s sprawling dystopian future cityscape, we’re in a cramped, just-left-of-normal version of San Jose, California. And that’s where I start to detect another, subtler influence: Jaime Hernandez and the Locas of Love & Rockets. As we watch Jam, Hank, Jin, Ting, and Terng do the shiftless-layabout teenage-wasteland thing, we observe little details about their California culture: the junk-food diets, the bike-riding cops with bike helmets and short-shorts, the angry Korean Presbyterian preachers and so on. Meanwhile, the fact that the title of the book is Jin & Jam even though when we meet Jam she’s already paired off with Hank indicates that there will be some kind of emotional shift taking place, breaking up or truncating one friendship as another blossoms. We even start to see it happen by the end of the book: As Jin and Jam take a fantastical ride on a swing set under the stars, the faces of their “friends” literally vanish, leaving Jin & Jam as the only real people in the book’s final splash page. Is this Tekkon Kinkreet or Wigwam Bam or just a jack of both trades but master of neither? Too soon to tell, but are you not entertained regardless?

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