Jade Street Protection Services #1

"Jade Street Protection Services" #1 takes the reader to a modern school for magical girls, combining elements from anime, "The Breakfast Club," "Harry Potter" and urban fantasy in a lively, chatty genre mash-up. Katy Rex and Fabian Lelay give their book a wonderfully diverse cast, with a wide range of races, religions, sexualities and neuro-diversity. The girls' caring group dynamics and collaborative decision-making are not only charming but effective. They turn the whole first issue into a character showcase that makes each character memorable. Though the issue moves clunkily or feels cluttered at times, the joy of watching the central cast interact still makes this work. "Jade Street Protection Services" #1 is a cute, chaotic debut that promises plenty of hijinks and heart in the issues to come.

The creative team has quite a task in introducing all five of the protagonists and establishing the world. They dive right into it on the first page with RPG-style character cards of each girl's vital info: age, GPA, hobbies, specialties and fun facts. From there, the girls spend the whole issue in group settings -- class, detention, the froyo shop -- and these scenes establish their group dynamic and emotional connections. Ultimately, it was smart of the creative team to spend so much time with the entire group. It ensures that all the characters are broadly drawn, and that they have enough time to compare and contrast with each other to feel distinct. Many of the girls even had surprising scenes that added nuance to their initial characterizations, which isn't something many team books make time for in their first issues.

The only downside to this approach is that it means a whole lot of back-and-forth chatter. That can certainly work, but unfortunately, the lettering and the artwork often don't come together as smoothly as they could. Captions whose content frames the other dialogue in the panel -- which suggests they should appear in a place of prominence -- will sometimes pop up in odd corners; other times, the arrangement of characters in a group guide the reader to read the dialogue out of order. In future issues, it would be great to see some better collaboration, so that the text flows more naturally: left-right and top-bottom.

Aside from those scattered readability issues, "Jade Street Protection Services" #1 is quite easy on the eyes. Colorist Mara Jayne Carpenter's colors slide between bubblegum and spare beige, referencing all the genres at hand without landing too hard on one of them. In addition, Lelay and Carpenter give the group scenes a lot of energy in their attention to detail; each girl has a different facial expression and color scheme, so that they're not only easy to identify but fun to watch. Even when they're huddled in an alley or bored in detention, they all have distinct reactions. Occasionally, Lelay's lines don't look as confident as they should; Saba's hijab will lose its folds, or a more detailed settings will suddenly drop their definition. Lelay's clean, spare approach is quite effective in many of the scenes, but it needs to stay neat throughout.

"Jade Street Protection Services" #1 can get a little messy, but so can high school. Ultimately, the creators succeed with the strength of their central characters -- characters I can't wait to root for in future issues.

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