Beauty and Black Horror Found in ‘Jook Joint #1’ Review

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Writer: Tee Franklin / Artist: Alitha Martinez / Image

I’ve been waiting for Jook Joint for months but let me tell you, fam…

    I was NOT READY.

This latest offering from Tee Franklin, who brought us the amazing Bingo Love, is a masterclass in raw, unadulterated, Black horror.

The thing about Black horror is that the scariest elements are an everyday reality for many people in the community. Jook Joint begins with a trigger warning and with good reason. The magic, the creatures, the gore…have nothing on the very real threat of physical, emotional, and sexual violence.

Issue #1 introduces us to Mahalia, the proprietor of the 1950s New Orleans jazz club: the Jook Joint. Mahalia is a glorious, undead, voodoo priestess. She and her chosen family of wronged women offer a safe space for people to express the truth of who they love in a world that would otherwise condemn them. The Jook Joint’s single rule: “Keep Your Hands To Yourself” seems simple enough but is often violated. Justice at the club comes swiftly and with the ultimate penalty.

Mahalia’s control is completely within the confines of the Jook Joint, but her legacy is known throughout the town. People come to her for medicinal remedies and more…sensitive issues. She takes a special interest in women who are trapped in abusive situations. This is how we meet Heloise, a woman imprisoned by the violence of her husband and the social restraints placed on her race and gender. Heloise’s decisions going forward promise to enthrall the reader as much as one of Mahalia’s spells.

The subject material is intense, and Martinez illustrates the raw, beautiful power of women. The juxtaposition of death, violence and gore against dance, beauty, and enjoyment of life is clear. Jook Joint is clearly a horror comic, yet Madame Mahalia’s goal is clearly a life without fear. This book is angry, impassioned, and liberating. I appreciate how much of herself Franklin poured into Jook Joint and am both excited and terrified to see what comes next.

9 dangling spinal cords out of 10

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