In RISE OF THE DJINN #1, available from Zenescope Entertainment on October 13th, 2021, Det. Tamara Brazile struggles to overcome the death of her husband at the hands of a serial killer and her terminal cancer when she’s pulled into a supernatural war.
Talk about a bad day/week/month/year. The hero’s journey typically has some element of obstacle or challenge the hero needs to overcome on the path to becoming the hero they were meant to be, and the main character in this story, by Kevin Grevioux, has an Mt. Everest sized obstacle in front of her.
Grevioux lists his childhood hobbies as everything from collecting bugs to playing football, but he also had a particular affinity for reading, focused on science fiction and horror. Around age 12, the youth discovered comics, and there would be no turning back from what he calls "a life-long passion."
Skip on down to the next section for the specifics, but suffice to say Brazile is going through a rough time. It’s not gratuitous or over the top as all of Brazile’s troubles fit perfectly within the context of her job and family life. Sometimes bad things happen to good people, and there are different ways storytellers can tackle how those troubles are handled. Here, Brazile seeks guidance from her pastor, and I respect and appreciate Grevioux works accuracy and authenticity into the pastor’s Biblical references. It may seem like a small thing, but writers too often misquote the Bible to get the emotional reaction from the protagonist out of the way before moving on to other things, so it’s a pleasant surprise to see a writer put in the work to get it right.
As the title implies, Brazile’s troubles are complicated further when she’s pulled into the supernatural underbelly of the world. Again, Grevioux puts in the work to give the supernatural elements the authenticity of historical context. Artifacts feel accurate to the time and place of their creation. The “experts” talk about their significance with an appropriate amount of historical significance that feels organic to the story.
It may sound like we’re praising “boring” stuff, but what makes this new title so impressive is the smart effort put into the little details. Yes, it’s just a comic, but it’s a well-researched, thoughtful, smartly-written comic.
As for the plot, those little details make all the difference in elevating a typical Zenescope mini into something a little more mature. The main character is incredibly relatable due to the stress and trauma she’s forced to endure, including her own “death”, and when events turn into something otherworldly, her reactions feel real. The bits and pieces we get from the Djinn start to reveal a war is starting or is already in progress, and you believe that it could happen in just the way it’s described here. You could also believe the methods the Djinn use to conceal their presence from humans.
In short, the entire fantasy somehow feels believable, and that’s quite an achievement.
The art is good. The character designs for Brazile, her husband, and all supporting characters are fairly standard, but Bondoc does an excellent job of coming up with interesting designs for the Djinn. They look familiar but not too stereotypical based on other properties (e.g. Aladdin). I like the monstrous look of the Djinn as demonic, and the designs have a spiritual feel closer to Biblical tropes rather than a magical feel ala the classical concept of a Genie.
In all this, this is a smart, mature story with fantastical elements that combine for a great first issue.
Det. Tamara Brazile arrives at a hostage scene where the hostage-taker is a serial killer/cannibal who Brazile has been hunting for some time. The clock is ticking and Brazile decides to go in solo before the killer snacks on his hostage. Once inside, she’s taken by surprise by the killer. Brazile’s husband, Andre, rushes into assist (he’s also a cop), and is stabbed to death by the killer before the killer gets away. We briefly see the room is littered with strange artifacts from the Middle East, and Brazile was caught by surprise because she saw a strange, blue-skinned figure in the corner.
Mourning the death of her husband is bad enough. Soon, Brazile receives a diagnosis of terminal cancer. She seeks some comfort from her pastor, without success, so she decides to use her remaining time to find the killer. The more she works on the case, Brazile starts to notice certain people in the station changing shape into demonic-looking creatures. She chalks up the visions to hallucinations brought on by stress and her terminal condition.
Two special agents arrive to request Brazile’s help with smuggled artifacts entering the city. The captain insists she lend a hand since she has experience with smuggling busts. When the agents show her pictures of the artifacts, she recognizes one from the apartment building where her husband was killed. Brazile and the agents head back to the scene of the crime where they find evidence and something much more dangerous.
We conclude the issue with Brazile getting accustomed to fire in a good way and a bad way, the unexpected results of a very painful death, and the arrival of a new ally with a story to tell.
RISE OF THE DJINN #1 is a smart, mature, interesting urban fantasy with excellent art and a surprising level of authenticity for the mythological lore. More publishers should take note of how much better a comic can be when a writer puts in the care and research to get it right.
That initial story would earn Adam a recurring place, featuring in events such as FEAR ITSELF. In 2013, writer Al Ewing would add Adam to the cast of MIGHTY AVENGERS and continue utilizing the character through his 2015 run on ULTIMATES. Blue Marvel has become a staple of the Marvel Universe, one of its most powerful and principled champions.
"I just want him to be a good classic heroic role model for the cause of justice,” Grevioux states on the lasting legacy of his work on the Blue Marvel. "And that his heroism is about serving the people, and not his own selfish needs."
Read Kevin Grevioux’s work, including NEW WARRIORS (2007) and ADAM: LEGEND OF THE BLUE MARVEL (2008), on Marvel Unlimited! Also track Adam’s heroic legacy across MIGHTY AVENGERS (2013), CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE MIGHTY AVENGER (2014), and ULTIMATES (2015)!