Review by Dave Baxter of Broken Frontier, posted April 29, 2006 - JAZANWILD
Soon to be collected into trade paperback, Jazan Wild’s Carnival of Souls offers up far more than just another "wild" ride – it’s an out of the blue masterpiece.
Though I’ve eyed Markosia’s products since the company first launched its section within Previews many months ago, I’d yet to convince myself to take the risk of committing myself to an upstart new company (especially a British one – UK products can be deceptively difficult for an American to order and actually receive). Nonetheless, their offerings have been consistently, undeniably attractive; from Lexian Chronicles to Abiding Perdition to Scatterbrain, from Sci-fi to high fantasy to horror, the concepts and visual packaging proffered have remained of unalterably high quality. So it was with a certain fanboyish glee that I accepted a very generous offer from my editor to receive three absolutely free issues of the current Markosia ongoing series Jazan Wild’s Carnival of Souls. Now was my chance to discover, at no financial risk to myself, whether or not the company and, in particular, this admittedly gorgeous-looking series was worth putting three and a half dollars down each and every month.
First off, I have to admit my initial, knee-jerk reservations based on the nature of JWCOS’s origins. Jazan Wild is a musician, and the COS comic book was conceived as a complimentary creation meant to coincide with the release of Wild’s correspondingly named debut album. As comic book history has readily shown, direct musician-comic collaborations (Insane Clown Posse, Alice Cooper’s The Last Temptation, Static-X) produce, at best, beguiling, atmospheric head-scratchers, and, at their worst, pure hyper-violent, attitude-laden schlock. Bolstering this fear were a two additional factors: 1) the memory of other music-inspired comic books such as McFarlane Productions' Kiss: The Psycho Circus, which was never a series that found a solid storytelling footing (it fell somewhere in between the two usual extremes – both oddity and B-comic fare) and; 2) as pretty as the COS covers by Kevin Conrad were, they epitomized the styles used in past grand guignol absurdities such as Insane Clown Posse, which was an utterly inaccessible comic to anyone who wasn’t a colossal fan of the band.
Mercifully, none of the deficiencies found within these earlier works are present within JWCOS. The story opens with a parable-esque origin framed by a Crypt Keeper variety of sequence, hosted by Jexter the Clown, king of the Carnival himself. Within the main story, our supposed protagonist, Jazan – a young British boy – is visiting the circus with his mother. On their flight home (yes, flight – not sure if that’s merely a cultural dissonance or a hint that Jazan’s birth-family is richer than anyone I know, but anyway…) tragedy strikes and Jazan’s plane crashes into a nearby island. His mother is killed outright, and a pair of tiger cubs, similarly orphaned by an arrogant hunter’s bullet, befriend the youth and the three raise themselves in the rugged outlands of "the wild" (the series’ pseudonym for anything basely natural). Years later, Jazan is I Can’t Believe It’s Not Tarzan, with two full-grown wildcats as his constant companions, he fights to free the jungle from the evil hunter and even falls in love with the hunter’s daughter, impregnating her after a single chance meeting (as any uncivilized brute would do, but hey – she apparently liked it, so no harm, no foul). Jazan’s story comes to a head with one last skirmish at the hunter’s home, and then the very same circus from Jazan’s boyhood past reappears to propose to our hero an offer of home and hearth, nomadic though it may be.
What is this circus? Why were they involved in both moment’s within Jazan’s life where great changes were wrought? The first issue was a surprisingly strong single story, but the overall premise still seemed to be a touch fanciful and somewhat lackluster – an odd-ball circus that would wander about without rhyme or reason solely for the purpose of being ephemeral catalysts for others’ tales? Eh. But then came issue #2; and instantly I was sold. The backstory for the Clown Jexter is told, and it is a marvelously inventive, original, and cohesive origin – three descriptive adjectives I’d feared I wouldn’t be able to use for the series. With this sequence the entire epic premise comes into view like the bottom of a stilled-water lake on a cloudless day, and the excitement it garnered, for me, was second to none. A host of new characters within the Carnival are introduced and the series at last revealed its true purpose: one character’s story will be told each issue, with a greater, epic arc building within and around each one, until the entire series comes together to form one massive, intricately laced tapestry.
JWCOS has recently been announced to have been signed to publish well past the initial three-issue arc; it will now run for 13 issues before it is complete, and that means readers who climb aboard are sure to get the full story of every unique, varied individual introduced within its pages. I can’t stress enough how enthralled I am by Petrucha’s ability to slowly tether together each singular subplot onto one, towering buoy, rolling each individual’s spotlight issue into a gradually growing classic. In fact, the only other series that utilizes even a remotely similar paradigm is Planetary, and I think we can all agree on the exemplary quality of that series.
And lest I forget, the art – done fully by inker extraordinaire Kevin Conrad (inker of X-Force, Spawn, and Kiss: The Psycho Circus) – is dynamic, frightening, glorious, and even solemn in all the apt places. He draws like the love-child of Ian Churchill and Angel Medina (should the two ever feel an irrefutable attraction to each other that, in its own mighty way, shattered all laws of human physiology). It’s redolent of the dynamic art of Rob Liefeld and David Brewer, which may give those who’ve survived the experience of reading some of those creators’ comics pause, but again, in JWCOS the story and art gel like crazy glue and ceramics – until you can barely see the cracks!
Jazan Wild – a name I had never heard of before reading this comic – seems a force to be reckoned with, even more as a creator than as a jungle-bred wild man! His COS music, produced by Grammy Award winner Bob Kulick, is astonishingly good; a strong effort and a great companion to the blockbuster begun in the book. I highly recommend traveling over to his site and downloading what tracks you can to listen to alongside this outstanding series. A graphic novel compilation of issues #1-3 will soon be released, and then there’ll be ten more issues of storytelling grandeur to come. I, for one, will spend $3.50 per issue without a moment’s hesitation, and I’ll buy the GN, too, because this is a series that demands a bookshelf RSVP.
For more information about Jazan Wild and Carnival of Souls, go to http://www.jazanwild.com