November 11, 2008
Detective Jermain, volume 1
By Misako Rocks!
High school senior Jermain's father died when she was seven. She wants to follow in his footsteps and become a detective. Luckily, she's in a shojo-inspired ELO manga and can thus discover a case more interesting than, "Does James like Sarah?" Of course, since it is shojo inspired, she does have to deal with those pesky hormones.
When classmate Mike and the band teacher begin acting weird, Jermaine is instantly on the case. Their untimely deaths convince her there really is a case. Her only help comes from her friends Andy and Travis, both of whom harbor crushes on the budding detective. I must admit, I was 100% partial to Andy. First, the shallow reason: I like his character design better. He reminds me of the guys I hang out with. Second, he doesn't go behind a friend's back and make a move on someone he knows his friend likes without telling the friend first. Third, when he makes his move he doesn't go farther than Jermain is comfortable with. Travis is a bit of an unapologetic personal space invader.
Okay, there's another shallow reason. When Andy confesses his feelings there's a full page of him hugging Jermain from behind, surrounded by flowers. It's got to be true love! (Me, a sucker for the pretty? Why yes, yes I am.)
As for the mystery, it involves extremely sketchy chemistry and people who are strangely apathetic that a classmate and teacher died. Jermain can't study the night it happens because she's preoccupied with the case, not because of grief. No one else seems to care much at all. However, the story moves along at a fast pace and Misako Rocks!'s artwork is a good vehicle. She has a strong grasp of layout. I never had trouble figuring out which panel came next.
The art is well done. The character design's are distinctive, the action easy to follow, and the tones well applied. In my opinion, Misako's art is very accessible. Everything's a little round, more cartoony than stylized. Aside for Travis's hair, which I find oddly flat, I cannot think of any bothersome quirks.
While the story features high school seniors, it seems to be pitched at younger teens or tweens. (Seniors will appreciate the characters' worrying about which colleges to apply to.) There's room for character growth, but as this is the first volume I'm not to concerned about that. I did love a panel where the brother is complaining about his mother and sister always ignoring him; I'd forgotten he existed! It was a clever way to be reminded.
DETECTIVE JERMAIN hit shelves in September. I have not found a release date for the second volume. Misako Rocks! also wrote and illustrated BIKER GIRL and ROCK AND ROLL LOVE. Her illustrations accompany Dan Savage's weekly column Savage Love, printed in the Onion. If you're under eighteen, I'm not responsible for making you aware of Savage Love. You can find out more about Misako on her webpage, MySpace, or blog.