Just to get pointlessly personal with you for a moment, if I have a second child and it turns out to be a boy… I’m stealing this name. Holy Jesus looking Cheeto did that name catch my damn attention. The best way I can entice you to read this fantastic series which is launching at Comic-Con from Europe Comics, is to describe it as Cowboy Bebop minus the setting and a different occupation. I know, that doesn’t sound like Cowboy Bebop, but in a weird way it’s a solid example of what to expect. I thought with a name like “Jazz” that it would be about music… and it is, just not the focus. The first issue throws us right into the action as we find Jazz and his friend tied to chairs. Jazz tells his friend Teo how they got into trouble which takes us to another scene without context. Usually when you’re tossed around in a story like this, given no context and just in the moment with the scene, it can be off-putting and prevent you from immersing yourself into the story. What’s really incredible about the writing is that you only find yourself more immersed. Jazz explains that he was in New York working for a band when he received a message from his sister and instantly left the gig. She was being held hostage in a brothel. Drugged, beaten, and giving up hope she reached out to her baby brother in the hope that her message made it through. What follows is an intense scene of a brother there for his sister and taking her home no matter what.
From this first issue we learn everything we need to know about Jazz. His passion is music, he cares about his sister more than anyone else in his family, and he’s a career criminal. He didn’t just rescue his sister, he stole a few million in diamonds while he was there.
For the first time in ages Jazz is back home and due to the diamonds and how he rescued his sister, he finds himself in trouble and getting acclimated with his home city of El Ravel. A seedy place that has more criminals than heroes. Jazz’s problem is that this trouble and his sister are now being used against him and sucking him back into a system he intentionally left behind.
The writing is sharp. There are some genre trope and character tropes for sure, but they work to strengthen the story. Raule builds and destroys the status quo as he goes along. On one hand, he shows what the city is and how it got there, while also setting it up to all be destroyed. Jazz’s character is of course cooler than ice, but then when we meet the other characters… they’re all pretty cool. It makes you wonder if he can out cool them, but that’s why I’m reading. He’s our loveable con, but he’s stuck and in over his head.
I was utterly surprised when he tore through the brothel the way he did. It was surprising to the story, but it was incredible for the art. Roger’s artwork is stunning on this series and that one scene set the tone for what to expect from the rest of the book. Big action moments. There are plenty of character moments as well. In particular the way that Roger presented Jazz playing his trumpet was incredible. You could feel the music coming off the page and that was just magical. Roger also brings the city of El Ravel alive. It has a personality and a vibe all its own. It’s not a Gotham or a New York, it’s something else and it all stems from Roger’s artwork.
These first four issues are fantastic. The writing is great, don’t get me wrong, but the artwork is where so much of the storytelling and personality oozes from. I’m incredibly glad that Europe Comics has brought this French work over and I hope to see more from both creators. If you’re at SDCC this year, check it out and pick up all four issues, though like me, you’ll be wanting the next four right after that.
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