Zero Jumper: A Comic Review

Patrick Mulholland and Peter Simeti bring this four issue sci-fi adventure to us by way of the usual $1.50 newsprint titles, which I love, smudged fingerprints and all, or via  trade paperback.

I’ve read it, and it’s okay.  I’m really not the target audience.

The story is suitably epic, though the galaxy feels surprisingly empty.  We see glimpses of denizens of various planets and towns and villages, but very few actual people.  Rather than fight her way to success, Juno slips through empty landscape after empty landscape, which gives the comic an oppressive feeling similar to what one feels when reading Jack Vance novels.

That’s all I can say without spoilers.

Juno (pic related) represents the last living human being in the universe.  Protected by a supersuit, guided by a powerful AI, and hunted by the ruler of the galaxy, she can leap back in time, hence the name of the comic, a few moments to correct the past.  Maybe, if she can avoid the Scion of the ruler long enough and secure enough MacGuffin crystals to make one big jump, she can go back in time and prevent the earth from being blown up in the first place.  The art is gorgeous, the colors vibrant despite the medium, and the action swift and easily followed.  As has been my experience to date, the comic shines brightest when it focuses on the characters and their relationships.  Juno’s struggle to honor her mother’s wishes while charting her own course are the heart of Zero Jumper, to its credit.

For my tastes, the focus on the mother-daughter relationship and the empty landscapes and limited cast resulted in a story with fairly low stakes.  That shouldn’t be the case when one panel shows the earth blown to smithereens a la Thundarr The Barbarian’s moon.  The bad guy’s evil is all shown off-screen, making him largely a shadow with little menace, particularly given how easily he gets clowned by Juno, her super-science Mom, and a rebel with a heart of gold smuggler/bounty hunter.

The focus on an all-female hero team drained a lot of the drama out of the title for me as well.  Even powered by a super-suit, there’s something empty about a panel showing a tween girl facing off against a towering dark lord.  We’ve been exposed to too many stories over the last few decades to have any doubt about the outcome.  Not only will our plucky heroine win through, it will look easy, and will occur without complications.  We know this.  It’s no surprise, and it sucks a lot of the tension out of the narrative.

If you have a tween girl you’re looking to get into comic books, she might be surprised, and she probably represents the target audience for this title.  This jaded Gen-X cynic found the art and relationship fun enough to stick with the story through the bland lifelessness of that aspect of the story, but its worth noting that of all the Alterna titles I’ve read to my five year old daughter, this was the one she appreciated the least.

And that includes some of the odd-ball stories in the sci-fi anthology If.

About Jon Mollison

Jon Mollison was weaned at the literary knee of Tolkein, Howard, Moore, and Burroughs. He spent decades wandering in the wilderness of modern genre fiction, wondering when the magic and wonder went out of the world of dragons and space ships. In his darkest hour, he encountered a wise man who handed him the open secrets to crafting works that emulate the stories of the great authors who built the genre. They are easily summarized in but two words: Regress Harder. Now one of the twelve champions of the Pulp Revolution, his self-published works represent a more direct lineage to the tales of action, mystery, romance, virtue, and pure unalloyed adventure than the bland imitations churned out by New York City publishing houses in recent decades.
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