Do you remember those post-apocalyptic 80s movies where the world is all teenagers and everybody roams in packs and smokes and is bad? Hellen Joâ€™s world is kind of like that except everybody is thirteen years old and Asian.
We are introduced to Jam and Hank, two greasy, smoking, kids fucking around outside of a church somewhere in Californialand. When out of the church comes Jin, bored of rabid sermons on sin, long hair flowing and a disapproving remark on her lips, a strange alliance is born between her and Jam. Add Ting and Terng, foul-mouthed conjoined twins with an appetite for fighting, a potato chip beef at the bus stop and the healing power of rock n roll, and youâ€™ve got the first issue of a kick ass fight comic all rolled up.
The story may be slight in this first issue, but the characters are so fully formed that theyâ€™re practically heaving with back story. Occasional non-instigatory dialogue bits hint at the kidsâ€™ larger worldviews in an effective way that doesnâ€™t break the action:
â€œWhy would they build a playground across from a bar?â€
â€œâ€¦So all the kids in town know where theyâ€™re going to end up.â€
However, all that would be nothing without Joâ€™s beautiful, intricate, black and white art. Her delicate lines sketch her coarse characters perfectly. There are visual cues to the characterâ€™s secrets everywhere, like when Jin meets Jam for the first time, and Jamâ€™s mischievous face is framed by wild and beautiful fish that seem to cloud Jinâ€™s internal controls, signaling confusion ahead. The panels explode with the surreality of teenagedom, where every sound, smell and moment is amplified to an excruciating degree. Jo creatively uses traditional panel structure to animate the fight scenes, using the rigidity to somehow highlight the physicality of her characters in action.
I fell for Jin & Jam after the second reading. Now that Iâ€™m hooked I can only hope the next issues deliver more story with the biff bang pow.