Jook Joint #1
Written By: Tee Franklin
Art By: Alitha E. Martinez, Shari Chankhamma, Taylor Esposito
Published By: Image Comics (October 3, 2018)
When it comes to horror, I’ve always been a huge fan ever since I was young. Stephen King, Anne Rice, and now, I can proudly add Tee Franklin to this list. My peers always wondered, why I like horror as much as I do? This is a question that I never really knew how to answer. Let’s just say that if there’s an angry spirit who comes back to haunt a house after a brutal murder, or maybe a psychotic serial killer terrorizing a neighborhood, that is the crazy sh*t I like to see.
The scare factor definitely plays a part (even though I’m rarely ever afraid) and the campiness also adds to the overall experience, but ultimately it’s the story that draws me in every time – and Jook Joint #1 is no exception. Jook Joint #1 written by Tee Franklin (BINGO LOVE) and Alitha E. Martinez (Black Panther: World of Wakanda), is a revolutionary horror story that is set in a brothel/jazz club that touches on domestic abuse, racism and social inequality.
The story begins with the introduction of the jazz solace in the Deep South, called The Jook Joint – where people are allowed to be themselves and their desires can be fulfilled. “Keep your hands to yourself” and “Respect everyone” are rules that are seen, and what what should seem like common sense – but as we all know, common sense is hard to come by. Transgressors who choose to break these rules are punished swiftly and brutally; as evidenced in the first few pages after a white man breaks the rules of keeping his hands to himself by groping a young black woman named Queenie. He is swiftly kicked out and before he is able to leave the premises, Queenie seduces him and viciously bites his jaw off (nothing like white men getting the justice they deserve).
One of the most interesting parts of this issue is Mahalia, who seems to be a supernatural madam of sorts. She embodies not only a protective spirit, but serves as a matronly figure to the other women of Jook Joint. Surviving her own abusive past, her purpose is to help other women that have endured the same. This is also seen when another woman named Helloise, a young mother who has been physically, emotional and sexually assaulted, seeks help from Mahalia. Many may view the events that take place throughout the issue as acts of vengeance but Mahalia, Queenie and the other women move in the ways of justice with the help of voodoo magick, and perhaps other supernatural forces.
Franklin has taken the horror trope and made it her own. She brings a refreshing and amazingly new story to the table; a table that has been (for many years) run by straight, white, able-bodied men. Going against the norm, Franklin’s been able to write a perfectly positioned story, especially during a time it’s needed most. Even though it is a period piece, it still has a very contemporary feel to it with the current social climate as it is; specifically with movements like #MeToo, the dialogue and events highlight exactly what is ugly about men and their lack of sense when dealing with consent.
Martinez’s art enhances Franklin’s storytelling even more. The images add to the eerie horror theme of the story and the details allow gruesome scenes to pop off the page. Many websites have described it as Law & Order: SVU meets American Horror Story, and I definitely got that vibe from this first issue. It reminded me of the third season of American Horror Story: Coven, with Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett), a no-nonsense powerful voodoo witch who is the protector of her tribe. Mahalia seems to channel those same ideals as she runs the Jook Joint.
Image Comics is one of my favorite publishers outside of the ‘Big Two’. The titles that have come from them have not only had great storytelling and art, but the writers understand the concept of inclusion versus diversity. Franklin is the first black writer at Image Comics and this is her first series, and supporting this series shows that Black people, specifically Black women, and other women of color are not only able to produce great stories of all genres, but that this what people want. We want to see ourselves in the stories that make sense, and not us being subservient to white peers. We want more stories centered around black and brown bodies to show how we can also exist in science-fiction fantasy and horror genres.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and with that variant covers will be produced. Jook Joint will trigger trauma in some readers, so I implore you to choose what’s comfortable for you. Even Franklin expressed in a previous interview, that writing this was extremely cathartic for her, but has allowed her to work through some of the trauma and she hopes it will provide the same for readers.
I would recommend Jook Joint #1 to everyone, especially if you like horror, magick and men getting half of their faces ripped off. It’s a story that not only entertains but also shows a very real and true story about life and others living in it.
Jook Joint #1 is definitely 5/5.