Written by Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing
Art by Nathan Gooden and Vittorio Astone
Lettering by Deron Bennett
Published by Vault Comics
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
Zojaqan is a melancholic tale of loss and discovery, a surreal sci-fi adventure driven by emotions. Grieving mother Shannon Kind finds herself shaken loose from time, shuttled aimlessly through millennia with no pattern or explanation.
Consumed by the loss of her son, left adrift emotionally in our time before finding herself adrift in the clean seas of a strange new age and planet, Kind is left to fight for her survival on a planet teeming with seemingly all kinds of life but another human being. As she lurches through eons in this week's debut issue, she follows the evolutionary path of a curious species that ultimately becomes her inadvertent charges and sets the stage for a dramatic exploration of grief, motherhood, and consequences as Shannon Kind finds herself shaping a strange new society on Zojaqan.
Writers Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly frame Shannon’s tale as a fable of creation, with stern old-fashioned lettering by Deron Bennett giving the opening narration a sense of gravitas reminiscent of an old sermon. Kelly and Lanzing deftly weave glimpses of Shannon Kind’s life on our world through her tentative, dangerous explorations of Zojaqan; her dialogue is deeply emotional, imbued with a listless sadness that evokes a sense of loss and loneliness. Shannon never seems to feel the kind of terror most of us undoubtedly would when faced with circumstances even a fraction as strange as hers - instead, she feels too sad to be as scared as perhaps she should be, still haunted by the loss of her child and struggling to shake the tragedy from her bones long enough to come to grips with the world she’s found herself in.
The art of Zojaqan #1 adds to her loneliness - artist Nathan Gooden crafts sweeping, empty landscapes, framing Shannon against surreal landscapes and frightening landmarks like explosive volcanoes in a ways that emphasizes how alone she truly is, and creates a sense of dread and powerlessness that makes every jarring leap she makes through time more urgent. There’s no one for Shannon to talk with on Zojaqan, and few true conversations throughout her flashbacks to “normal” life, but Gooden’s art makes Shannon so expressive it’s easy to get a strong sense of her personality without Kelly and Lanzing having to overwhelm the book with monologuing. Some of the most powerful panels have no words at all - a full page following Shannon and her son through the years, to his death, is gripping, with only three striking words present on the entire page to make them stand out against the relative silence.
Shannon feels relatable, her flashbacks giving a fully-realized sense of who she was in her younger years and the toll her tragic loss truly took on her. Colorist Vittorio Astone grounds her in a simple tank top and jeans and keeps the rest of Zojaqan outlandishly colorful - Shannon is out-of-place against the pinks and yellows of Zojaqan’s mountainous landscape, looking small and fragile against a vibrant and dangerously explosive volcano. The consistent oranges and yellows through Zojaqan make it feel humid and foreign, adding to the creeping urgency of Shannon’s plight at as she explores the landscape for new food and flees from strange new predators that loom, ominously purple, over her path. Astone’s choices mark her threats, her blessings, her growth through time as she forges herself into a woman who can survive in this strange time to honor her son - even the soft pinks of the creatures that eventually find themselves under Shannon’s guidance make them seem naive and innocent, reminiscent of a newborn after they’ve been scrubbed clean.
Zojaqan #1 is an impressive first issue, emotionally arresting through its artwork and dialogue. There's no real explanation of Shannon's plight here, but ultimately it's not needed; this is an exploration of grief and circumstance against a beautiful and surreal science fiction backdrop, driven primarily by Shannon's journey rather the specifics of what has made her unstuck from time or where and when Zojaqan exists in the universe. Vault Comics has an all-star team on hand with Zojaqan #1, and this week's debut issue is absolutely worth checking out.