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Jax in the Box

(This  Stripped column originally appeared in the April 16-22, 1998, Long Island Voice. Click on the artwork for a larger image.)

by Beth Hannan Rimmels

'NUFF SAID:

"I think I had everything once. I don't think it helped."

— Uncle Sam 
in Uncle Sam #1

I've been wanting to heed the first part of their title and write about Quicken Forbidden for quite some time. Unfortunately, it seemed like the latter word took hold because every time I put it on my schedule, something more urgent would bump it off.

Dave Roman and John Green's Quicken Forbidden (Cryptic Press, $2.95), a terrific small-press work from their North Babylon, NY, company, has a great buzz going in the industry. They've done a great job of getting the word out — any comics creator who recommends other titles has heard from Green and Roman. That makes giving a plug all the easier, because the book is very good.

Jax Epoch is a 16-year-old girl with the normal teen's less-than-perfect life: She's a bookworm who daydreams too much, her boyfriend tends to get into trouble, and she's a bit of a kleptomaniac (though she says it's not stealing if you intend to return it). But normalcy goes out the window when she chases an escaped white rabbit in a building she is exploring with friends.

Like Alice stumbling into Wonderland, she falls through a dimensional portal (it wasn't her fault — she couldn't see it) and finds gloves, boots and an ancient book that create a sort of magical armor. Thanks to the Post-It notes she used to mark her path, Jax returns home.

That's just the beginning. Somehow, her bad self took her place while she was gone and later blew up the building that contained the portal. Not that it matters. Jax unknowingly unleashed the Quicken, which is a force capable of destroying time and space. But she doesn't know that yet. All she knows is that her bad half alienated everyone, the portals were being examined by a group call DAK (Data Analysis Keep), and she's in a lot of trouble.

DAK wants her to find the probe they sent through the portal in exchange for silence about her trip (you don't believe that, do you?), which in turn leads to more mysteries — such as: Who is the dark dude trying to kill her? Who wrote the pages she found about her adventures? And how was she (or at least a version of her) sucked out of time to stand trial for the crime of leaving the realm to which she was born? (The only legal way to escape is to die.)

It sounds a trifle confusing and it is, but aren't all mysteries in the beginning? Just as Jax — along with the reader — figures out how two puzzle pieces fit together, she realizes the scene is much bigger than she thought. The Alice in Wonderland overtones, however unintentional, provide an apt comparison: Jax needs to learn a great deal about herself before she can hope to resolve the mess she's in.

It's totally appropriate that Roman and Green are active members of Friends of Lulu, a group dedicated to championing comics in general and comics about and for women in particular. Making their lead character female was not a ploy to be PC. Jax is three-dimensional, foibles and all, such as when she explains that her boyfriend Adam is "kind of immature. Why do I go out with him you ask? Look at him...he's cute."

I'm particularly impressed by how well put together Quicken Forbidden is, considering how young Green and Roman are. It's rare to see something this polished and professional from guys who are only 23 and 21, respectively. Bigger companies could learn a few things from them.

The art, whether the color covers or black-and-white interiors, is wonderfully rendered. While stylistically different from Jeff Smith's Bone, Linda Medley's Castle Waiting and Gary Shipman's Pakkin's Land, Green shares their talent for clean-but-detailed drawings. But he has his own touches.

In some scenes, Jax is drawn without eyes showing through her glasses, occasionally without a mouth either. Why? Green explained in the letter column for #2 that "the main purpose is that it leaves Jax's expression up to the viewer, thus involving the viewer in the story more."

It's too soon in this fractured, depressed market to say whether Quicken Forbidden will be the next Bone, but it definitely looks like Jax's adventures will continue for quite a long time.

Contact them by e-mail.

Media Connection: On 'Nuff Said this week, hosts Ken Gale and Ed Menje talk with William Messner-Loebs, creator of Journey, an acclaimed independent, he's written Thor for Marvel and Wonder Woman and Impulse for DC, among many other titles. 'Nuff Said airs from midnight April 19 to 1 a.m. April 20 on WBAI-FM (99.5).

 

Column 1998 Long Island Voice. Artwork 1998 Cryptic Press.