Jin & Jam
By Hellen Jo
Kids can be cruel—especially to one another. There’s really no revelation in that statement. Surely we’ve all been tormented by peers in some form or another. For better or worse, it’s a key part of the process of growing up—for the cast of teenage nihilists that populate the first issue of Hellen Jo’s new Sparkplug series, however, it’s something of a way of life.
There’s a strange rhythm to Jin & Jam. It’s hardly noticeable at first, just slightly off the norm. Jo introduces Jam first, gnawing on a greasy McDonald’s hamburger on the sidewalk in front of a church on a Sunday morning. Next to her is Hank, in ripped jeans and long hair, reclining, knees up, puffing on a cigarette. These kids are clearly troublemakers. Jam, on the other hand, makes her first appearance well-dressed, stepping out of church. She berates the two hoodlums for loitering. The dichotomy between the titular characters is made fairly clear early on.
The first sure sign that we’re operating slightly off the norm here is a quick visual cue—panels of Jin and Jam on a background of fish floating by, for no immediately discernable reason—it’s easy to write such visual digressions off, however, as Jo’s art is clearly steeped heavily in a manga tradition—one that’s never been too heavily invested in the laws of reality. Moments later, Jin upsets the black and white character balance by snatching an unlit cigarette into her bible for later consumption. There are no truly “good” characters in Jin & Jam, at seems, just different shades of “bad.”