Cosmic Horror, Drugs, and Jazz Abound in Jazz Legend #1
Jazz Legend #1 is a story of cosmic horror in a neo-noir setting with psychedelic visuals. It’s a little Lovecraftian with a Quentin Tarantino twist. Think a new age Cthulhu Mythos set in the world of Jackie Brown, add in Naked Lunch by William S Burroughs and you basically have Jazz Legend #1. Interestingly enough, according to writer J.C. Lacek, Jazz Legend is inspired by the life and work of both William S. Burroughs and Miles Davis. And rightfully so, as the story revolves around drugs, monsters, and jazz.
Jazz Legend #1 follows two characters, Martin Comity and Benjamin Way. Martin is a musician who breathes jazz music and Benjamin believes he is a writer. Benjamin admits that he has lost any concept of his true identity. He just writes. It is the strange entities that wander Motocity that made him write the life of jazz legend, Martin Comity. Benjamin, and therefore the audience, knows a lot about Martin. Probably a lot more than he should.
Due to the fact that Benjamin is a writer, be prepared for a lot of info-dumping. There are several pages of a rather pretentious exposition. Those scenes are paired with some great visuals that kind of keep it interesting. Why any of what Benjamin says matters, as expected, is unexplained. All the audience knows is that there is a darkness that follows both Benjamin and Martin. Additionally, they know from the start that something terrible is coming and both Martin and Benjamin must be ready.
As I mentioned early, the story is a mix of Naked Lunch and pulp noir with some Lovecraftian themes. It’s a genre-bender that may fascinate some and repel others, just like jazz. There are some aspects to the story that are fascinating while others are just downright boring. The story does not get interesting until the end, and then it just stops and expects you to want more without really giving you anything interesting to look forward to in the next issue.
Structurally speaking, Jazz Legend #1 is a lot like Naked Lunch in the sense that it is uncoordinated and trippy. It would be interesting if, in a collection, it flowed in the same way that Naked Lunch does. In essence, you can open up to any page in Naked Lunch, and it makes the same amount of sense. One may think of the book as a collection of random events taking place in a world with no concept of time. I’m not sure if Jazz Legend would be able to do that since there is seemingly a streamlined plot of some sort.
While I thought the structure and the visuals were cool, I found J.C. Lacek’s dialogue to be very bland. Every character sounds the same in this issue. No one has a distinct voice. That’s extremely problematic from a storytelling standpoint because it means that there is no life in the author’s world. Everyone speaks cryptically and obscenely.
One could argue that Vasco Duarte’s artwork is Jazz Legend #1’s saving grace. The artwork is, for the most part, interesting to look at. The trippy scenes, such as the one towards the end, looks like something right out of a David Lynch film. Couple that with Patrick Gama’s colors and Jazz Legend #1 becomes a psychedelic nightmare. The visuals that Duarte provides are definitely what this issue needed to remain even remotely interesting.
Obviously, there was a lot I did not like about Jazz Legend #1. While its story is fascinating and its visuals are great, the characters are flat and sound like copies of one another. Maybe that’s the point, maybe that is where this series is heading. Maybe this is all in Martin’s or Benjamin’s head. If that’s the case, then that could pretty cool if executed better than this first issue. The plot has a lot of potential, but Jazz Legend #1 does not leave a lasting impression, unfortunately. If you are a fan of genre-benders, you may like Jazz Legend #1. I happen to be a fan of genre-benders, but there just is not enough here to warrant a second read or peak my interests further, just like jazz.