Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing (Writers), Nathan Gooden (Artist), Vittorio Astone (Colorist)
July 26, 2017
Content warning: suicide
Zojaqan is a book that I had to read twice, its surreal nature getting lost on me multiple times. Written by New York Times bestselling authors Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing and published by newcomer Vault Comics, Zojaqan is about a woman named Shannon falling into an alternate world. The catalyst to her descent is the death of her son and her resulting suicide. She plunges into an uninhabited planet where she must fight to survive and carve out a place for herself. She discovers that she can mold the world as she sees fit.
The writing by Kelly and Lanzing weaves through time and space, giving you the feeling of how strange this world really is. Shannon’s life shapes the world around her. She believes she is dead; artists Nathan Gooden and Vittorio Astone do a great job depicting the landscape as barren and destructive. But then she remembers her father and her son, and the feeling of wanting to be alive, so she decides to keep fighting. The world around her becomes bright and lush with life.
Grass, bushes, and planets suddenly appear as if she gave life to them herself. The theme of the first issue is life, and being alive. The pain and hardships that come with life and the realization that you can’t give up when everything goes to hell. You just keep fighting. Lanzing and Kelly drive this theme home with Shannon becoming the caretaker of this planet and its fledgling society of Zojas at the end of the comic. Suicide is such a hard topic to write about—Kelly and Lanzing artfully explore this subject with grace and an understanding that should be applauded.
In issue #2 Shannon, becoming Shan, uses her motherly past to help nurture the fledgling species called the Zoja. She makes it her goal to raise them to their potential, even with the pesky problem of her uncontrollably leaping through time. In this issue, you see Shan’s evolution from a woman on the brink of collapse into a guardian and matriarch. Someone wise and strong.
I love how the writers showed how easy it is to fall prey to evil when Shan hops into the future and finds that the Zoja have created a classist and violent society. I think this is brilliant storytelling. The writers still use Shan’s previous life as a parallel to her new life with the Zoja. The writing in these two books is reminiscent of a fairytale: chock full of morals, wondrous creatures, and magic. But Zojaqan is grounded in its ability to weave complex issues, rimmed in darkness and melancholy, into a tale of hope and life.
The art of this book is gorgeous; the subdued pastel coloring and surreal landscapes give the story scope. I often found myself examining the background and the color choices. Gooden and Astone work together to draw and color a brilliantly colorful world to contrast with this women’s dark past. The green skies and pink mountains, framed by the curly branched trees in the first issue immediately put me in the world. But it’s the Zoja design that is truly gorgeous: each one has a different face; their features are expressive and they are cute and weird. I grew to love them like Shan did.
The watercolor feel to the colors of the book make the drawings seem like they have more movement to the panels. There is something about the soft desaturated colors that give the story a calming feel even though at times the writing is the opposite. Astone and Gooden’s work speaks for itself, it’s absolutely gorgeous throughout both books.
Zojaqan is a comic that delves into the complexities of death, suicide, life, and what it means to live. With an amazingly uplifting and surreal story and unforgettable art and colors, Zojaqan # 1 and 2 are two books you need to run out and read.