Jade Street Protection Services #1
Written by Katy Rex
Art by Fabian Lelay and Mara Jayne Carpenter
Lettered by Taylor Esposito
Published by Black Mask Studios
Review by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Take the John Hughes classic The Breakfast Club and elements of Sailor Moon and the magical girl trope, put it in a blender and hit frappe and you've got Jade Street Protection Services from Black Mask Studios. There's been a handful of magical girl-type of books to come out in the past year including Zodiac Starforce from Dark Horse, but Jade Street is different from the menu despite having similar ingredients.
We're introduced to this curious quintet of Kai, Saba, Divya, Neomi, and Emma, each coming from different backgrounds and offering something unique to the team. Combining a variety of weapons, skills and personalities, Katy Rex's characters balances out each other, yielding a fun team banter and charm that I haven't seen elsewhere. There's a lot more at stake here as well than just battling supernatural forces, something much more personal for the girls of Matsdotter Academy.
Rex sets up a solid intro to the girls right from the start, with their stats and what they're all about on the first page. She takes a page from the Scott Pilgrim playbook here, listing each girl's speciality, GPA, weapon proficiency, and a little bit of trivia about them so you can get an idea of their personality. The kids are thrown into detention after a training exercise gone wrong, and with this strange bonding experience, we learn a bit more about them here as well, including one of them is autistic and is more comfortable communicating via text, but who was also the narrator in our introduction. The thing that really drives this is the fact that these aren't perfect kids. As the son of a former Juvenile Probation and Intake Officer, I saw a few of these kids down the line. Nobody in comics is perfect, but it's nice to shine some light some well-meaning delinquents now and again.
What the girls aren't aware of is that the academy might not be the safest place in the world for people and their abilities. I won't go into plot specifics, but it gives the girls a true reason to stick together outside of their recently-forged friendships, even though that is the heart of the book. The dialog and banter among the girls feels natural, aside from the Lumberjanes-like treatment of how they handle obscene language, but if we can start using the phrase "sparkle bunnies" instead of f-bombs, I wouldn't mind.
Fabian Lelay's art style makes me think of something in the same wheelhouse as Logan Faerber's cartooning swirled around with Michael Walsh's figure composition. It's more whimsical, and the designs are straight up great. What was also so positive is that they didn't waste a ton of time with the transformation sequence. Fans of these kind of mangas will note that sometimes, the transformation will take up several pages, but here, just a few panels and it's right back into action. Mara Jayne Carpenter's colors are fantastic as well. They're muted and scaled back for the most part until you hit a more intimate moment, and it just highlights the scene more as you read.
Jade Street Protection Services stands out for a few reasons in the sea of releases, even outside of its fantastic diverse characters, it builds up this world just right and wants you to keep coming back and actually gives you a reason to. JSPS succeeds where a lot of these comics fail giving a lot of time with the main cast and really fleshing them out. True, that action of the issue doesn't come til near the end, but it gives you a strong first bite with an incentive to get eating.