Digital Ash: 9/30/2013: Scherezade and Jezebel

A comic review article by: Bill Janzen, Daniel Elkin

Digital Ash

1001 #1 and #2

(Sanya Anwar)

3.5 stars

I shouldn't have liked these comics as much as I did. I make no bones about it, I'm a superhero guy. So comics like this one that are of a non-superhero genre need to win me over. But the art in both issues is beautiful and on a level most indie comics just don't quite reach and made me want to pick them up. That and I must admit I do love trying indie comics. 

1001 #1
 
The story centres around two poor sisters. One of them, Scherezade, is the main character and works as a scribe but her life is complicated by her wild imagination and day dreaming ways. But there is more depth to this comic than just struggling sisters. Throughout the first issue we see glimpses of girls bodies being found. What is the connection? Why are we seeing the aftermath of murders and how are they connected to Scherezade and the nobility that she does her scribe work for? You'll have to read the comics to find out. 
 
I was pleased to find both issues 1 and 2 of 1001 were fun and interesting reads that were just as much a pleasure to look at. The culturally knowledgeable will recognize 1001 and the name of the main character Scherezade (or Scheherezade in some other writings) from Persian legend. I came in recognizing both vaguely but not knowing the original legend so if you don't know it either don't worry you don't need to. 
 
Anwar's writing is solid. The story keeps an energy and pace by flashing back between the murders and the sisters. Some writers portraying historical settings try to use an older style of dialogue which unfortunately often just comes across as wooden. Anwar avoids that by having the dialogue between the characters very natural and comfortable while at key points including a poetic type of narrative over top on what appears to be old-fashioned paper.  
1001 #1
 
The artwork is lovely with a style that leaves out many of the details but gives you everything you need. It's not as sparing with details and lines as, say, Bruce Timm's famous style but Anwar leaves lines out of spaces instead filling in the look through the colouring. The result is an appearance similar to the classic Disney style. She also captures the action well. In one scene the panels are broken up smaller as we see flashes of frightening action as a woman is attacked culminating in a page close up on a lifeless hand and eye. It feels violent and ominous.  
 
I must confess I did cheat a bit by, after reading the issues, reading the legend behind them. Doing so actually got me even more interested in reading what's to come and that actually highlights the main weakness of these comics. While they are good they're just not as compelling as they could be. Somewhere between the more standard parts of the story and the murders the balance just doesn't seem right and it leaves it all a little bit short. 
 
1001 #1
 
All said and done this is a comic worth a read especially if you are interested in stories with ancient settings or from legends. Plus, you can read it for free. And if you like it, buy it. Let's support the skilled indie creators. 
 
- Bill Janzen
 
Both issues and more can be read for free at artbysanya.com.

Jezebel

(Elijah Brubaker)

3.5 stars

Continuing our love affair with the great work put up by Study Group Comic Books, I submit for your enjoyment Jezebel by Elijah Brubaker. This comic is a retelling of the Biblical story of Jezebel, Ahab, and Elijah and all the hijinks inherent within – it puts the “ho ho ho” back in “holy” as it were, and I have no shame whatsoever for writing that.

Jezebel

For those of you less Biblically oriented, the story of Jezebel goes something along the lines of: Jezebel, once she married King Ahab, got him to go anti-Yahweh and go pro-Baal. This, of course, runs counter to that whole “You shall have no other gods before me” commandment.  God comes to the prophet Elijah and tells Elijah to set up some good old-style smiting and stuff and, from there, the comedy erupts.

Comedy?

Elijah Brubaker has taken this tale of heresy, drought, and slaughter and made it pretty damn funny. He recasts everyone as either insane, petty, stupid, or clueless and, by doing so, turns a horrific story into some jocular comic-making. And he may be going to hell for it.

Jezebel

Nobody is spared in this one, not even Yahweh. Were I infused with more religious sensibilities, I could see myself getting really offended by this comic. And that may be the point. The ridiculousness of the violence of this story, as well as its inherent misogyny, is just ripe for parody. The Old Testament God sure did put his worshipers through the ropes and seemingly had little concern about slaughtering hundreds of people now and again just to make his point. Jezebel points this out, because, I guess, Brubaker thought you should know it.

Jezebel

This is a quick read. Pages fly by. Brubaker's clean, sparse art adds to the humor, and doesn't lessen the emotive timing needed to really stick the jokes. Were it not for the basic blasphemy inherent in the presentation (oh, and a couple of panels featuring Elijah's dick), I could see this being a regular feature in the Sunday funnies in your local newspaper.

But of course that could never happen.

Ted Cruz might filibuster it.

So read Jezebel and maybe the next time you hear a perfectly coiffed, blue-suited, bible-waving, pink-faced man calling some smart, modern, self-assured woman a “Jezebel”, you might remember this comic and, instead of rolling your eyes or getting angry at the chauvinism, you might just smile instead.

- Daniel Elkin

Jezebel can be found at the Study Group comics website.

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