Most reviews I've read about JENNIE ONE - Brian Wood's pseudo-prequel to his 2000 break-out graphic novel, CHANNEL ZERO - have been ones of political masturbation. They generally derail or praise him, depending on whether they agree with his politics or not, allowing the critic to espouse his or her own political ideology, as if anyone really cares. The mere fact that he's even elicited such a strong reaction from his script means he's done something right.
But it's all missing the point.
JENNIE ONE is a work of fiction that portrays the formative events in both the life of CHANNEL ZERO's protagonist, Jennie, as well as the Big Brother world that she inhabits. It's an alternative history in which fascism takes root in America following a series of governmental policies that strip away personal freedoms, thus creating a pervasive police state. In Jennie's world, "cleaners" actively prowl the streets and subways, looking to rid the city of defiant threats, innocent or not. Like most social science-fiction, Wood is presenting a story that, yes, has a political stripe to it but, no, doesn't require you to agree with him one way or the other to enjoy it. At the end of the day, I suspect he's simply trying to make us think.
The irony here, of course, is that the most surprising element of the book is not found in the story, but rather the art. This is the premiere graphic novel from Becky Cloonan, who has been kicking out some stellar mini-comics over the past few years, and her work evokes favorable comparisons to Farel Dalrymple and Paul Pope. She brings an organic quality to the story that stands in stark contrast to the harsh world that Wood has created, combining for a worthy follow-up to the original CHANNEL ZERO.
And that's what really matters.
Peter Aaron Rose is a writer, producer and technologist who lives and works in San Francisco, CA. Under the pseudonym "Peter Siegel", he recently authored Killing Demons, a graphic novel available from Engine Press and Platinum Studios.