Review: Jade St. Protection Services #1

JADE STREET PROTECTION SERVICES #1 1The magical girl genre has seen a popularity spike in the past year or two, and it’s hard to say what prompted it. An anime staple, western animators and webcomic artists have recently picked up on its visual cues, narrative tropes, and worldbuilding rules and run with them. All of a sudden, it’s hard for a magical girl comic to stand out among projects like Zodiac StarforceSleepless Domain, and Agents of the Realm. There’s enough magical girl stories currently running that I actually have to be picky about which ones I check out, so as to invest my time in the best entries in the genre rather than just consuming everything I can find. With that in mind, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Jade Street Protection Services when I first heard about it…and then I saw the cover of the first issue.

JSPS‘s color palette (courtesy of Mara Jayne Carpenter) and linework (penciled and inked by Fabian Lelay) make this comic really stand out. The graffiti-style look of the front cover (provided by Annie Wu and Kiki Jenkins) gives way to gradually shifting blues and greens, bright pinks and yellows or moody purples and browns. The character’s faces are easily distinguishable – it’s impossible to get two characters confused for one another – and Fabian Lelay’s inking strikes a great balance between simple and detailed depending on how a given panel is composed. These aren’t panels your eyes slide off of as you go from page to page: this comic is full of panels I found myself examining to admire composition or lighting or how characters were posed.

JADE STREET PROTECTION SERVICES #1 7 Thankfully, the story is just as strong as the artwork – rather than waste time on a three-paragraph page of exposition on the inside cover, the audience learns about the world the characters live inhabit as they discuss it naturally. We learn the name of the school the main cast attends on the same page where we see them attend their first class, where they learn how to pose and transform into proper magical girls. The nice thing about taking this approach is that any expository dialogue doesn’t come off as forced or stilted: it’s to be expected that a teacher would reiterate basics to remind her students what they should and shouldn’t focus on during a class. It works, and it works well. The first two pages give us a brief “here are your protagonists” montage, which is a device I usually don’t enjoy, but here it works because it gives us a broad idea of the main cast with plenty of room to flesh their personalities out in much more detail as the story progresses.

JADE STREET PROTECTION SERVICES #1 4We only get a brief glimpse of what may be the series’ central conflict, and there’s still plenty of worldbuilding to be explained in subsequent issues, but it’s easy to see that this info is being withheld simply because it would slow down the fast pace of the introduction. The first issue goes by quickly, but it’s because words aren’t wasted. Every panel has something to contribute to the mood, the story, and the worldbuilding; every line of dialogue establishes how the characters talk and think and interact with one another. This is a story where even the idle chatter and inane comments show us who a character is and what they’re like, and every panel has an obvious focus to draw the eye’s attention toward – this is the kind of writing and art magical girl comics should aspire to.

From what I’ve seen so far, JSPS is as enjoyable to stare at as it is to actually read and I can’t wait to see where it goes beyond issue one. If the first issue of this series sets the tone for what’s to come, I’m in all the way.

Story: Katy Rex Art: Fabian Lelay, Mara Jayne Carpenter, Annie Wu & Kiki Jenkins
Story: 8 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy!

Black Mask Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review