Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters #1 is a delight. Written by the team of Chris and Laura Samnee, with art by Chris Samnee and colors by his frequent collaborative partner Matthew Wilson, Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters is the fast-paced, action-packed story of sisters Jonna and Rainbow as they explore the lush wilds surrounding their village. Or, at least, it starts that way, with Rainbow in pursuit of her younger, more adventurous sister Jonna as she sprints and leaps through the jungle landscape and finds herself face-to-face with the unpossible… and then disappears for a year, leaving Rainbow alone to search for her.
Written by Chris and Laura Samnee
Art by Chris Samnee and Matthew Wilson
Lettering by Crank!
Published by Oni Press
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Chris Samnee devotes large, wide panels to the gorgeous landscape; the art is beautiful and serves as a character in its own right. His linework and Wilson's colors impart the density and humidity of Jonna and Rainbow's home. Wilson gives the monster a vivid, brilliant pop of red, marking a transition into the world after Jonna's disappearance and a surge of destructive energy that turns Rainbow's world into a sea of arid, washed-out gray-tinged reds and blues. This week's debut issue is light on dialogue and big on action, which works for the premise and the characters.
The early pages are nearly silent, centered on Jonna's swift and acrobatic trek through the jungle with Rainbow calling intermittently after. Jonna is immediately identifiable as the more impetuous sibling - even beyond the way Chris Samnee shows her deftly sprinting and leaping through the trees and moss - by her compact, utilitarian build and shaggy hair, while Rainbow's overalls and bandana make her look every bit the intrepid investigator.
Samnee leans heavily into a more cartoonish style to help drive home the weird and wild world the sisters live in, with Chris and Laura's writing letting the characters ground it through expressions and dialogue. The exchange between Rainbow and an older woman who's been keeping an eye on her as she looks for her sister is sweet and keeps the story warm and inviting where it could have easily fallen into the more common genre trope of a grim dystopia.
Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters #1 is an excellent example of how middle-grade comics consider not only content but structure when it comes to delivering great works for young readers. The series is fun and engaging, with a fascinating world and equally intriguing story unfolding, while the panels are laid out in a fashion that's straightforward to follow without ever getting dull. Samnee plays with the sound effects to keep the layouts engaging, including some great use of sound effects as panels.
Comics for younger readers sometimes fall into the trap of thinking 'meant for kids but also fun for adults' means the same dialogue stripped free of 'bad' language, resulting in dense, cramped lettering, and convoluted speech layouts. The Samnees deliver age-range appropriate dialogue and Chris Samnee gives letterer Crank! plenty of room to work, making for lettering that's easy to follow and still shows off lettering's ability to impart volume, tone, and conversation pacing. Jonna is an adventurous tale that will keep readers of all ages engaged with its story, and is a must-buy for parents of avid comics readers or who are looking for something to let them introduce their kids to their local comic shop for Wednesday pick-ups.
Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters #1 goes on sale on March 3.
Read our interview with Chris and Laura Samnee about Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters.