Written by Dirk Van Dom, Chris Cronin, Matthew McLaughlin, Mark Howard
Art by El Chivo, Dave Candlish, Dustin Parr, Chris Askham, cover by Dave Candlish.
Jikan created by Dave Candlish
First things first; this is a continuation of the story from Jikan Chronicles Book 1, as reviewed back in January 2011. Book Two could really benefited from a “story so far” summary. As is, we’ll go back to the review of Book One:
“Well, here we have the complete Volume 1 of Jikan’s adventures. And with the benefit of actually being able to tell the story of this time travelling, demon battling Samurai warrior across several chapters the writers and artists have done a far better job than just that initial glimpse afforded me.
Granted, there are chapters here that don’t work as well as others, and instead of being a single volume it should more rightly be considered a shared anthology title all featuring one character. Thankfully Dave Candlish’s character and the over-arching story – a quest to defeat the demonlord who has sent him plummeting through time (Quantum Leap style) – does lend itself extremely well to this mix of writers and artists.”
And that reading of Book One as a shared anthology works for Book Two as well, as does the summary of it – but although Book Two is still somewhat patchy, it’s far, far less obvious here, and Candlish et al deliver something that left me impatiently wondering when I’d get to read more.
We return to Jikan’s time-travelling ways, as he finds himself flitting across time and space, on a mission to kill as many demons as he can. But whilst that was pretty much all there was to Book One, here we have a sense of everything thus far having purpose and a greater meaning.
And that is what elevates this above Book One and turns it into by far the best thing I’ve seen of the various comics Candlish has published thus far. Sometimes it really does pay to wait and see how people develop.
(Jikan faces his usual demons and a Griffin in Griffin’s Bounty, ending up with Jikan coming into possession of an amulet that, although it seems insignificant, will play a huge role later on. Written by Dirk Von Dom, art by El Chivo)
This time it’s every bit as diverse as before, with early episodes seeing Jikan battling a Griffin in Ancient Greece, fending off aliens, having a stylish modern adventure that looks for all the world like an episode of Mad Men despite being set in 2002, a stop-off in Africa to battle “The Lord Of The Sores“, even a surprise visit on-board the good ship Demeter where Jikan faces off against more than his usual demons.
(Something evil, but not the usual sort of evil Jikan bumps into – although they are on their way. The name of the ship Jikan finds himself on, along with the writing credit for a certain B. Stoker, might give it away in Demeter written by Mark Howard, art by Chris Askham.)
The quality of writing and art has really stepped up from Book One. El Chivo’s art in the first tale Griffin’s Bounty looks great, Chris Askham’s in Demeter likewise, but as usual it’s Candlish that fascinates and rather infuriates. His Tim Sale inspired Lovers Folly is cracking with stylish and spare crisp blacks all over it. But Uchuujin, where Jikan faces aliens AND demons, discovering a little more about that amulet he picked up in the very first chapter in the process, looks rather cut price Mignola in comparison.
But one of the main reasons I like Candlish is for the fact that he does keep pushing his style into interesting places, and have to accept that some will work better than others.
There’s also the continuing annoyance (to me at least) of including a wild west web serial previously published on the Paragon blog; Jikan Noon by Matthew McLaughlin and Candlish. The problem isn’t with the strip in and of itself, which sees Candlish adopt a third style in as many strips, and does look rather good, but the disruptive nature on the overall reading experience. The pace of the book had been developing nicely by this point. The one, two or three mini panels in Jikan Noon just interrupts it.
(Jikan does Mad Men? Lovers Folly written by Chris Cronin, art by Dave Candlish, doing a very good Tim Sale impresssion here.)
So the first half of Jikan Book Two takes the usual episodic route and does it with fine style, delivering a reading experience far better than Book One. But it’s the drawing it all together episodes, three of them to end this book, all written by Mark Howard and drawn by El Chivo, that really puts Jikan Book Two into another league.
Suddenly Jikan’s tale veers off in a completely new direction, and we get a fascinating scenario, as that page above with the best art yet by El Chivo neatly summarises.
Jikan discovers everything leading up to this point has really been a manipulation, a devious plan all designed to get Jikan to one particular time, one particular place, in the company of three others, all with similar tales.
And it’s all down to that woman/ demoness/ whatever she/ it is.
Over the course of these final three episodes Howard and El Chivo set up something that I’m really intrigued to see develop over the course of the next book.
Jikan Book One was flawed but enjoyable. Jikan Book Two is way better in every way, and aside from that misfire of including the webcomic serial really moves everything forward, with a great deal of good writing and artwork.
I’ve read and reviewed a fair bit of Dave Candlish’s published works over the last few years with Paragon and Jikan, and I can safely say this is by far the best thing I’ve read so far.
Personally I think Candlish spreads himself too thinly with the Paragon anthology, and after reading Jikan, I’m more convinced than ever that he should concentrate on one thing at a time. With the ending to Jikan Book Two setting up a genuinely exciting cliffhanger to the story so far I’d love to be reading the next book in a few months. Sadly I fear it will be 2013 before I tell you how it all turns out.
My disappointment at having to wait is possibly the best indicator of how enjoyable I found this second Jikan volume.