I wrote last year about the first volume of Archie's Jinx series, which features the adventures of a now-grown Lil' Jinx and her friends.
This second volume has the same creative team as the first series, with writer J. Torres, artists Rick Burchett and Terry Austin and letterer John Workman (one change is now Digkore Studios is listed as the colorist of the series).
Last time, I noted how impressed I was with how charming the work was, and how strong the artwork was. This second volume is even better and I am especially impressed by how willing the comic is to tackle some difficult issues like teen sexual identity while also being even MORE daring (in a way) and not have everything resolve itself smoothly by the end of the volume, even choosing to have our heroine show some (quite realistic) character flaws that linger as this story ends (but hopefully we will get more stories in the future to see them addressed).
Burchett and Austin truly shine in this story, as their character designs from the first volume remain impeccable but their expressive character work is amazing. Meanwhile, Torres has clearly defined each of the various cast members. Their various skills come into play early in the volume where pretty much every cast member is fully defined as they are introduced as Jinx simmers angrily over being stood up by her mother (her parents are divorced - her mother is an ER nurse) once again. Jinx calls up her various friends to see if they're busy before she ends up spending time instead with her father (and then regretting it). Burchett and Austin take Jinx's expressive face and use it to convey so many different emotions that it is really impressive and Torres not only introduces each of the various friends of Jinx, but establishes their personalities AND how they connect to Jinx (when she calls each of them tells you a lot of how Jinx sees them each, friend-wise). Meanwhile, good ol' dad is always there to work as a calming (or, on occasion, stern) yin to Jinx's over-dramatic yang, just like he was back in the days of Lil' Jinx...
(Man, Joe Edwards was awesome)
The volume is split into three main plots. The first is Jinx's debate whether to follow her mother's footsteps and play softball or try out for the otherwise all boy's baseball team. In the first volume, Jinx had an unfortunate time trying out for football, so the debate over trying out for baseball is a difficult one for her. Here I found a slight issue with the story, when the school's coach has a sudden and dramatic change of heart towards the end of chapter one. Early in chapter one he's very much anti-Jinx trying out for baseball but by the end of chapter one he's for it. Torres DOES explain it by noting that Jinx's male friends on the team all pleaded her case, but it didn't ring true for me. If that's the way Torres was going to go, the coach shouldn't have been SO vociferous in his anti-Jinx attitude earlier in the chapter. Not a big deal, of course, but just noting that it did stick out for me.
The second plot is one that progresses throughout the whole story and it is what to do with the school's dance, but more generally, what to do with boys PERIOD? Jinx clearly has two notable suitors in Greg and Charlie, but is she even interested in dating at this point? Some questions of sexual identity are addressed in the volume ("I am a tomboy, does that mean I'm gay?). Meanwhile, her friends aren't doing much better in the dating department and Gigi has some interesting theories as to why. It's well-handled, well-realized stuff.
The most notable plot of the volume, though, is Jinx's relationship with her mother. In the original Lil' Jinx comics, her mother was barely around. Torres takes this further by examining how frustrating it is for Jinx to deal with an absentee parent. Things take a more dramatic turn when her mother makes a revelation to Jinx.
Here is where Torres is at his best. Jinx does not know what to make of her mother's revelation and she does not handle it as well as she could. It is all quite realistic and I love the unsettled nature of it all. Jinx is a typical kid and typical kids do ALL sorts of dumb things, so we should not be surprised to find that she is not dealing with it all in the most healthy and mature way. Here is where I was really impressed with Torres' plot, he manages to finish the volume withOUT resolving Jinx's issues with her mother OR her issues with her guy friends wishing to pursue something more with her than just friendship. She essentially sidesteps them all. Avoidance is something teens are QUITE good at and it is nice to see a writer who understands that kids don't just have their issues resolved because, well, it's the end of the book so things have to be resolved. No, Torres knows that there is quite often an unsettled nature to life. We don't always make the best decision, epecially as teenagers.
The end result is a charming, true-to-life tale filled with interesting characters who are well-drawn and filled with reasons to want to read more about them (if only just to see how Jinx deals with her issues). It's a great comic work and I hope Archie keeps making 'em.
Jinx Volume 2: Little Miss Steps will be released on May 29, 2013.