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Jinnrise by Sohaib Awan – review
Trying situations often form unlikely allies. In Jinnrise by Sohaib Awan, humans must align with a much maligned group of mythological beings to save the world from an alien invasion. It’s a plot that sounds an awful lot like any number of popcorn-ready action flicks or cheaply printed mass-market spinner rack paperbacks. In the right hands, though, the basic framework becomes a compelling story.
Andrew Marcus is studying abroad in Marrakesh. His perceptions of the world are shaped by his own upbringing, and at the beginning of the graphic novel he’s portrayed as less than open-minded towards the culture surrounding him. His attitudes may not be all that welcoming, but he seems to think that being willing to travel to another country is enough for him to understand it. His insular and somewhat privileged world is completely upended when Earth is attacked by a race of warrior aliens, the Kibrani. Suddenly, Andrew finds himself needing the help of a market stall owner and the small boy working in the stall, whom he had previously dismissed as unimportant. He also discovers that the boy, Yunus, has a very powerful friend, a Jinn named Jabal.
This is the first volume in the series, so, naturally, there’s a lot of set up to be done. Characters must be set up, the core group who are supposed to function together have to be put into place, and the setting has to be established. While the groundwork has to be laid, the way this story unfolds makes it seem like a linear, if fast-paced, progression of events. Later on in the book, a little time-hopping happens to establish some backstory for the key villain of this particular arc. It’s an important piece to know to understand the character, and it’s a welcome glimpse into the aliens’ world. As readers, we begin this story as ignorant of the Kibranis’ world as Andrew Marcus is of Yunus’s.
The artwork is simple, with a cartoonish style that features heavier line work and mostly color dependent shading. The characters are easy to tell apart, and the look of the panels makes it easier to follow a story that could easily get lost with a more intricately detailed or busier visual style. There is an overall sense of texture to the artwork. It’s got a slightly grainy texture to it, especially in the opening pages, that makes the art feel a little bit gritty. For me, it especially calls to mind the work of very talented graffiti artists.
While the line work is thicker, the coloring is in more a more subtle palette. The colors are muted and earthy, except where action or a particular character need to be specially highlighted. It’s a genius use of the medium to draw readers exactly where the author wants them while they’re reading. There are focus points here, and even though you’re not being clubbed over the head with them, you’re not going to be able to miss them, either.
I especially loved the design of the Kibrani. They’re a parasitic warrior race that invades, practices what amounts to planetwide scorched earth warfare, then moves on to the next planet with resources they can pilfer. They’re warhorses in more than just an archetypal sense. I’m not sure that I have ever seen an alien race depicted as bipedal, armor-wearing, four-eyed horses before, but I’m going to say this: any creative team that can come up with a concept like that deserves my money for the sheer weird that they have just inspired. Their most fearsome warrior, Lahasad Brim, comes out of exile to take on the surprising resistance that they encounter on Earth.
Jabal is a gigantic blue Jinn. While his race is generally considered evil, Yunus has managed to earn not only Jabal’s trust, but also his respect. The boy considers the Jinn to be his friend and doesn’t seem to understand why the people around him would regard Jabal with fear or animosity. There is a little bit of background provided in the first volume about cultural attitudes towards Jinn, but there’s less here about them than there is the Kibrani.
Alien invasions threatening Earth is nothing new. Every author who tackles the idea creates their own spin on how Earth deals with those encroachments. Some of them show us banding together, staying strong, and triumphing. Others show us buckling under the pressure and succumbing to our alien overlords. It depends deeply on the type of aliens that we seem to be fighting in any given story.
Right now, it’s too soon to tell which kind of invasion story Jinnrise will turn out to be. It seems right now to be one of the hopeful ones. But, again, this is only the first volume of the series. The characters have a long way to go towards accepting each other before they can really work effectively on finding a solution to the Kibrani problem.
Jinnrise is really action-oriented with character development occurring in the story when it becomes relevant to the situation at hand. It certainly reads like the book equivalent of an action movie. It also shows all the signs of being a very smart sci-fi action series. The message is there but thus far is not heavy-handed. There’s violence – after all, this is large-scale warfare against humans as a race – but this graphic novel doesn’t revel in gore or graphic depictions of wholesale destruction. The author makes it clear that people are getting hurt, and it’s a horrible tragedy, but the story is also about surviving and figuring out how to ultimately overcome the brutality surrounding the characters.
This would be a great series for fans of sci-fi action. If you’re looking for a graphic novel that clips forward quickly plot-wise, then definitely take a look. For anyone looking for classic mythology, I’m not sure that this one would satisfy you, but the direction the author seems to be taking the Jinn is intriguing. The look of the Jinn is pretty much exactly what you’d expect, but the aliens are like nothing else. I certainly want to know and see more of this series. I didn’t find much content that I would consider truly objectionable, and I think there are a good number of guys who would find this graphic novel to be a whole lot of fun to read.