Jack Frost, Vol. 1 | By JinHo Ko | Published by Yen Press | When Noh-A Joo is decapitated on her first day at Amityville Private High School, she isn’t terribly surprised. After all, it’s the same recurring nightmare she’s been having since she started high school. This time, however, the dream doesn’t end, and Noh-A finds out that not only has she died and left her real world forever but that she’s stuck for eternity in a burned-out wasteland where blood-thirsty creatures live in perpetual war. Noh-A is a “mirror image,” something that remains largely unexplained in this volume except for the fact that it means she is immortal and that her blood is able to heal the wounds of others. Amityville is divided into districts, each of which is at war with the others, and Noh-A has landed in the North District–the smallest of these which has its headquarters in the deserted, ravaged high school. She is valued highly by the others in her district (not that they treat her especially well) for reasons unknown to her and is unfortunately dependent on the same man who terrified her in all of her dreams–a maniacal “student” named Jack Frost who is well-known as being impossible to defeat.
Thanks to its inclusion in Yen Plus magazine, Jack Frost has become famous for its first-chapter panty shot and (to a lesser extent) its gore, though neither of these things is the most interesting aspect of the story. Through all the crotch-shots, boobs, endless battles, and splattering blood, the one thing that really keeps things going is Noh-A. Frustrated by her lack of apparent superpowers and confused about her place in this new world, she strives forward, enduring several more decapitations and various humiliations with remarkable pluck in an attempt to become useful for something other than her blood. She’s oddly cheerful (though far from a doormat) and utterly out of place with others around her, driving the story forward with refreshing verve. It seems likely that her backstory is going to prove to be something special, though this volume only offers a few small hints, and there are also indications that her association with Jack may go deeper than she thinks.
Unfortunately, everything else moves at a snail’s pace. Jack and Co. do battle with vampires, zombies, and whoever else comes along, but by the end of the volume there is still no real information about Amityville or its inhabitants–certainly none about why they are locked in an endless battle that long ago reduced all the teachers at Amityville Private High School to nothing but skeletons and ash. At one point, Jack’s full power is displayed for all of Amityville to see, apparently as a way of luring the rest of the city’s strongest fighters in to do battle with him, but what really motivates all of this is anyone’s guess.
The art is elaborately dark and gory, filled with sharp edges and rivulets of blood all surrounding Jack’s creepy smile. The action scenes are stunning, if sometimes difficult to follow, and if there are too many jagged, dripping teeth for my taste, it’s still hard not to admire the meticulous detail.
Though it begins on a strong note, overall Jack Frost‘s first volume disappoints, with too much bravado and not enough substance to back it up. The real test will be in the next few volumes, which will (hopefully) provide some answers about Noh-A’s plight and Amityville as a whole. While this volume offers more than enough to please fans of horror for its own sake, much more is needed for any chance at achieving a broader appeal.
Volume one of Jack Frost will be available on May 31st, 2009. Review copy provided by Yen Press.