Serenade #5


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Serenade #5


  • Words: Barbara Jenkins
  • Art: Barbara Jenkins
  • Inks: Barbara Jenkins
  • Colors: Barbara Jenkins
  • Story Title: N/A
  • Publisher: Kiss me Comix
  • Price: $3.00

The story that changed everything – the story of Jonathan’s death, the tragic event that led Serena down her no-return path of vigilantism, is finally told.

Serenade has followed the bloody exploits of Serena Park, a half-black, half-Korean woman who becomes the cognominal "Songstress of Death," seeking revenge on a group she refers to as "the lucky seven." Having inherited her husband’s cosmetic empire, Serena invents an arsenal of killing cosmetics, using sex and poison to exact her toll from those she claims wronged her long ago. With a fourth degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and armed with a terminal touch, Serena – under the guise of Serenade – is truly a force to be reckoned with.

Now, with issue #5, creator Barbara Jenkins at last brings to the fore the long-buried past that sparked Serena’s obsessive, vigilante exercitations. While the story itself is a keystone to the overall saga of Serenade, and while the broad strokes of this particular tale’s telling is appropriately sincere, the execution is disappointingly melodramatic, and not even in a campy, fun way, but rather in a desultory and largely empty presentational format. To be fair, the last half of the book – the half which relates the actual death of Jonathan and the circumstances surrounding it - is much more effectively wrought than the beginning. The main issue stems from the fact that there isn’t much story to be told. The relationship between Serena and Jonathan remains a simple one; a slightly above-average love affair which suffers a handful of minor (though notable) complications and ends in a manner relatively straight-forward. The result is an issue-length tale that would have been vastly more effective had it been told in half as many pages.

Jenkins tries to stretch this backstory out with poetic license and emotional earnestness, aggrandizing the simplicity of the plot with a multitude of scenes consisting of little more than Serena moping about in the present day and waxing histrionically via long captions of purple prose. Not having been familiar with the series before this issue, the heavy first-person narrative style lured me into believing that there would be a greater revelation about Serena herself (something not yet acknowledged in previous story context), yet when the climax was reached and the story abruptly ended, I had to come to the conclusion that the narrative held little purpose beyond establishing that Serena was, indeed, saddened by Jonathan’s death, which (bluntly) isn’t a strong enough purpose for such excessive, repetitive dramatics.

On the other hand, the action of the book – the event of Jonathan’s death, was superbly handled; it was brutal, frank, and mercilessly quick, three qualities rarely found in the usual comic book hyper-violence. While the issue as a whole simply isn’t an effectual full-length entertainment, the final scene was, I admit, nearly worth the price of admission.

Jenkins’ art is also a major plus for Serenade. Her every panel is worthy of a pin-up, artfully composed and meticulously rendered. Her figures are more classically poised than typical comics fare, and for the serene subject matter of this particular issue (well, serene minus the ending), it performs flawlessly. Add to this the distinctly antiquated, hand-coloring technique employed and the art manages to contribute to the overall eloquence of the book rather than merely suit it.

Serenade #5 is without doubt an imperfect issue, though the bits it gets right are exemplary paradigms for what comics can aspire to be. With a pairing down of nonessential narrative qualities (I’m all for experimental prose expressionism in comics, but there’s taster’s choice stylizations and then there’s simply muddying, poorly-chosen approaches to any given sequence, and this is the fine line which Jenkins needs to distinguish) and additionally a focus on solid storytelling, this series may, one day, be an ideal blend of serious drama and considered, vigilante mayhem. And who wouldn’t like a comic that could be described like that? Certainly not me.

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For more of Serenade and other Kiss Me Comix titles, go to www.kissmecomix.com

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