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Jenny Finn: Doom
Written by Mike Mignola and Troy Nixey
Art by Troy Nixey
Published by Atomeka; $6.99 USD

Jenny Finn: Doom. It’s a bustling day at a large cathouse somewhere in London, in some unspecific Victorian time. One of the regular ladies runs screaming out of her bedchambers; something has happened to her latest client! A crowd gathers at the boudoir, transfixed by the awful thing writing on the girl’s bed: it looks like a fused mass of assorted sea life, tentacles and boils and fishtails and snapping jaws, all as one thrashing entity, all growing from the tortured skin of some sorry john. Suddenly, the Prime Minister bursts in, geared up in an elaborate mask of tubes and lenses, high science indeed. He is informed that the poor chap was seen the week prior with the new girl, a Jenny Finn. The Prime Minister pops a cigarette into his mouth, through the mask, and contemplates.

So begins the awful saga of Jenny Finn, and such a charging introduction can only leave the reader in anticipation for all sorts of high-spirited Lovecraftian steampunk shenanigans. But ‘anticipation’ has been the defining term for Jenny Finn, a work over half a decade in the making, and still not entirely completed. Originally intended at its inception in 1999 as a four-issue miniseries from Oni, Jenny Finn fell victim to the increasing time demands on its creative team, stalling after only two issues. I strongly doubt there’s a soul reading this site that hasn’t heard of co-writer Mike Mignola, he of Hellboy fame. Co-writer cum artist Troy Nixey, on the other hand, will prove familiar largely to connoisseurs of early Oni and various anthologies, having contributed work to several issues of Oni Double Shot and Dark Horse Presents, along with both volumes of The Matrix Comics. He also produced the two-issue miniseries Trout from Oni in 2001. He even re-teamed with Mignola in a way for the DC Batman Elseworlds miniseries The Doom That Came to Gotham, in 2000, for which Mignola served as co-writer, and he as co-artist.

But Jenny’s ending was not easily forthcoming, until hopefully now. The volume under consideration here collects both of the published Oni issues under one cover, along with a few pieces of Nixey production art. The heretofore unseen conclusion is scheduled for July, under the title of Jenny Finn: Messiah, but Nixey will not be providing all of the art; Farel Dalrymple of Pop Gun War and Marvel’s upcoming Omega the Unknown revival will be finishing the visuals off (there was also an earlier replacement, Scott Morse, who had to drop out due to increasing commitments even before any art was completed). Dalrymple’s scratchy visual style will offer a measure of visual continuity, but there will doubtlessly be bumps.

Nixey, you see, has a talent for long, weathered faces. His characters have stretched or fat cheeks, often large noses, and little more than shadows for eyes. Their collective caricature emphasizes their humanity though, which leads directly into Nixey’s primary strength: the mutative possibilities of the flesh. There is a lot of bubbling, pockmarked change in this book.. Cheeks and noses are dotted with octopi puckers as if they’re freckles. Rolls of fat become prehensile tentacles. You’d never believe how natural and organic a wriggling fishtail can look extending from a man’s face, but Nixey pulls it off. It’s gorgeously revolting character work, and there’s a lot of it. Initial steampunk concerns are quickly brushed aside to emphasize the teeming population of London’s streets; there’s constantly a crowd on these pages (as least when everyone’s outside), and every face is a new opportunity for fresh disgust. Nixey’s eye for background mood and period dress help out as well.

There’s contagion out there, you see. One can pick up touches of Mignola’s familiar wit throughout (such as the recurring image of a flopping fish exclaiming “Doom.”), but this is a more crawling, sweating work. The mysterious title character, really little more than a thin young girl, is spreading her bizarre oceanic STD throughout the city, although her power is not confined to the pleasures or mutations of the flesh. Rather than crafting a pulpier Black Hole, Mignola and Nixey’s script seems to eject metaphor (as of now) to build a more consuming surface dead. The deceased rise from their graves. The sea’s bounty becomes awful and poisoned. A slasher roams the streets, searching for whores to kill. And a fellow named Joe finds himself transfixed by Jenny Finn, allured to the point of giving her his protection, which cannot possibly turn out well.

There’s not very much in the way of tight plotting here; just as metaphor is traded off for atmosphere, so is twisty storytelling, leaving a somewhat wandering, almost improvisational yarn. Joe runs all over town for the first chapter, aiding Jenny from religion-drunk attackers and confronting killers and whipping mobs into a frenzy and generally encountering important characters one after another. The second chapter sees him falling in with a crew of aristocratic occultists, their masked medium channeling both ghosts of the past and Jenny’s tragic secret origin. If there’s any character complexity here, it’s in the lonely, sexualized little miss title being; all else in everyone else can be read in Nixey’s tired urban faces, as the story bounces from happening to happening.

But there’s a lot of happenings to hold one’s interest, along with that lovely art. It must have been quite a pain for fans to have waited this long, and the book will probably suffer from Nixey’s visual absence come July and the delayed conclusion, guaranteeing further minor tooth gnashing. But it will be fun to see how Dalrymple, a slightly more shaded, heavier character artist will take on Nixey’s playdough properties for human and fish skin. The mélange can tantalize with the possibility for differing visual interpretation, though what’s presented here will please fans of the grotesque and Victorian, so long as conclusions are not a priority, nor depth beyond the stinking mutant atmosphere.

-- Jog

The ADD Blog by Alan David Doane. Trouble with Comics Reviews of comics and graphic novels. Commentary about the artform and industry of comics. Get back to the main page.

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