Impressive Start to a Promising, Neo-noir Series
Scout Comics’ presents Jazz Legend, a six-issue, monthly comic book series from the minds of writer JC Lacek, and artists Vasco Durate & Cristian Docolomansky.
“There’s a peculiar new drug on the streets of Motocity. Its effects are unlike any other, an immersive psychedelic dreamscape with visions of animalistic abominations and god-like humanoids. This is bad news for Martin Comity, a hard-living womanizer who lives for two things: playing jazz and getting his next fix. An eccentric writer, the reclusive Benjamin Way, takes an odd interest in Martin’s predicament after experiencing visions of his own. Jazz Legend is a neo-noir meets cosmic fantasy inspired by the lives and works of jazz great Miles Davis, and the father of beat literature, Mr. William S Burroughs.” – Scout Comics
Jazz Legend opens on jazz musician Martin Comity, sleeping next to bottles of booze in an alleyway. When a young boy starts snooping around his instrument case, Martin invites him to take a closer look.
If I told you about the aforementioned opening scene – one involving childlike wonder and a first encounter with jazz – I’m sure you’d picture a rather different outcome to the one that follows. The scene escalates into profanity and violence, establishing Motocity’s harsh, unforgiving environment. In what some readers could argue the first issue lacks in terms of a clear direction for the story, Jazz Legend #1 makes up for in tonal consistency. The comic exists in a world constructed out of passion, passion that creates a strong enough hook to keep you interested.
Motocity brought to life
The worldbuilding of Jazz Legend stands out from the comic’s get-go. Primarily realised through soft, neoned artwork which, although a little light in detail and texture, conveys the sleazy, live-fast-die-young city it so desires. It’s refreshing to see the comic break conventions in form, with funky-shaped panels that compliment its psychedelic vibe. One particular sequence of visuals from the perspective of Benjamin Way stands out too, for its clever allusion and subversion of creation and historical imagery.
What grounds Motocity even further is the sense of culture attached to it. It’s blended out of real-world jazz culture and vivid, mind-bending dreamscapes that might as well be something out of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. The comic should also be commended for its diverse representation, although it’s a more gritty take of it, if anything. In an age where audiences are gravitating towards more positive representation in entertainment, such as Marvel’s Black Panther, some may shy away from what you could argue to be a more unfavourable, stereotypical representation of Afro-centric, jazz culture. Then again, well written characters are often flawed characters.
While Jazz Legend is an engrossing, clever read, and its problems are only minor (i.e., some lettering which is a bit difficult to read), ultimately your level of enjoyment may depend on how direct your prefer storytelling to be. Without going into spoilers, concepts alluded to at the end of the comic are imaginative and compelling, but it strikes me as a peculiar choice not to reveal more in terms of plot for a first issue.
However there’s another reason why I’m more inclined to believe Jazz Legend will deliver, and it’s all to do with concise writing. For the most part, the comic’s narrative feels tight – evident in anything from its opening pages to its staple in jazz culture and beat literature. At the end of the day, what makes Jazz Legend effective is that we’re evidently seeing a story being brought to life from concepts and culture that the creative team is passionate about.
A few words from writer JC Lacek
We were lucky enough to catch up with writer JC Lacek, who, along with his team, have been working on bringing Jazz Legend to life for around a year and a half now. JC describes himself as someone who came into comics more as a writer/creator than as a fan, with a background in screen and playwriting.
When asked about his inspiration for Jazz Legend, JC had this to say:
I’ve always had a fascination with the avant garde/fusion jazz scene, and the beat literature writers of the mid-twentieth century… The average Joe was suddenly walking into a night club, turning on a radio or picking up a book, and suddenly having their minds blown wide open experiencing this brand new world. In my opinion that’s what jazz is truly about. It’s loose, it bucks convention and it can go places no other music form can. With Jazz Legend, I wanted to convey the essence of the idea of jazz more so than having it be about music itself. I wanted to use the idea of being taken to unexpected worlds with jazz to a literal level.
After a few poor starts trying to get into the industry himself, he offers up some advice to any aspiring comic book writers/creators out there:
It really comes down to three main points, know what you’re getting into, be brutally honest with yourself and pick yourself up off the floor and keep going when things don’t go well (because at first they most likely will not)… Take the time to truly learn the ins and outs of comic making as well as what the industry wants. If you are fresh to this, the hard truth is it’s going to take years and probably a lot of money to get things off the ground. That’s just part of it, unfortunately.
Also, be honest with yourself about your story. It could be a great idea but you need to ask yourself, how similar is it to other books that are being published?…Publishers get tons of submissions everyday. When they run across yours, it always helps if they have to stop for a second and think, hmm, this one’s a little different.
Finally, and I can’t stress this enough, if your mission is to breakout in the comics industry don’t give up, ever. If you make a story that’s not turning heads, scrap it and start over. I feel a lot of times (because I fell into this) a creator can become too attached to the worlds they build. Don’t be. Yes, it sucks that you put in countless hours on world building. You have to ask yourself which is more important, sticking to your guns or making it in comics. If you’ve submitted to every publisher you can find and are getting zero bites, it’s time to move on.
Jazz Legend #1 is expected for a May 2018 release.
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Jazz Legend #1 (2018)
While Jazz Legend #1 may not reveal much in terms of story, it does an excellent job of establishing tone. That feat alone is commendable for the first issue of any series.