Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Jikan Chronicles Book Two

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of The Jikan Chronicles Book Two (Paragon, 2012).

It did not take me long to become utterly confused by the second collection of The Jikan Chronicles. I saw from the table of contents that this is an 88-page book with stories and artwork by several different British small press creators, but assumed that it was some kind of anthology of unrelated stories, as the second one didn't seem, at first, to have anything to do with the opening tale. Eventually, I figured out that Jikan is a time-traveling samurai, killing demons of various sorts in several different periods of history, and that his adventures are chronicled by several different creators.

Davey Candlish, who provides artwork for several of the stories and appears to be the overall editor of the project, has hinted that there's an overarching plot for this series, and a great deal of background and character work that's yet to be seen. His own art is still a little hesitant - very solid inking, but shaky on the anatomy details - but as the stories passed by, I was left wondering what was the point of the series, and this collection. Each story had its own merits - creators, whose names should be familiar to Bookshelf readers over the last few months, include Matthew McLaughlin, Dirk Van Dom and "El Chivo" - and I didn't dislike any of them, but was baffled as to where this was going. A lack of a "story so far" left me similarly stumped as to whether I'd missed anything important.

It is definitely worth sticking with it, as about halfway through the volume, a much longer tale begins and it, happily, starts to tie all these disparate adventures together and explain that there is a much bigger puzzle at work than "samurai kills demons and leaves town," and, abruptly, what had been amusing and unrelated diversions becomes a truly engrossing and fabulous tale of intricate time travel and devil-dealing.

Anyway, Van Dom and "Chivo" probably start things off with too great a bang for anybody to follow, which might also have contributed to my dissatisfaction. "Griffin's Bounty" sees Jikan rescuing travelers in a remote area from huge monsters that have abducted a girl who's a lot less helpless than she let on. A reference to a translator in Jikan's ear threw me, but I figured that was due to the missing details from the first book. It's not the most wholly original adventure, but it's done very well and "Chivo" really nails the sense of place and pacing of the story. The art that I enjoyed most throughout was by Dustin Parr, who gives the story "Lord of Sores" a grisly and nauseating once-over, but whose figure and character work sell the piece perfectly.

The book is available through the Paragon blog site and Lulu by clicking the image above. It's very reasonably priced at £5 or $8 US for 88 pages, and it would be a entertaining diversion even without the 25-page "Shimasu," which closes the book and kicks the story into something really engaging. As with all small press work, it's a little rough around the edges and flawed, but never troublingly so, and there's a lot more right than wrong. Recommended.

A PDF of this comic was provided for the purpose of review. If you'd like to see your comics or detective fiction featured here, send me an email.

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