Zaya review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Magnetic Press - 978-0-991332-49-6
  • Release date: 2012-2013
  • English language release date: 2014
  • UPC: 9780991332496
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

Jean-David Morvan doesn’t give a lot away over the first quarter of Zaya. We see people bitching at an art show, then the artist herself proving very capable when a man becomes aggressive, followed by a long sequence of a different man being targetted by a killer in an ornate battlesuit firing a gun. The target is cybernetically enhanced, and when beaten detaches his own hand and sends it rocketing into space, from where it’s later retrieved. In the meantime the artist has collected her children and returned to her home planet.

In other circumstances the mystery might be prolonged too far, but in Zaya we have the remarkable art of Huang-Jia Wei to keep the pages turning. In terms of detail and layout he greatly resembles Juan Giménez at his peak. A prodigious conceptual imagination when it comes to technology is matched with the visual flair to supply action scenes that might be the result of SF intrusions in John Woo movies. The genius of the design is that everything looks so unwieldy and unworkable, what with wires and tubes extruding all over craft and vehicles that otherwise have recognisable shapes, as if the chassis of 1940s manufacturing has been upgraded by an inveterate amateur tinkerer in their workshop.

Zaya Oblidine once took on covert missions for a company called Spiral, but despite having left the trade to raise her children, she’s called back for a mission apparently only she can carry out. Two-thirds of Zaya builds toward the problem to be solved over the final third. Morvan picks up the pace and one chapter is almost entirely thrilling action leading to the crisis point. This is a matter Zaya’s skills alone aren’t going to be able to rectify, so how does she get her life back, and what exactly has happened?

Even if Morvan takes his time getting to the point, it’s an intriguing problem and good use made of a restricted top tier cast whose lives become intertwined, and you’ll not believe how quickly everything is resolved at the end. This is no rush, though, but a logical conclusion of the path taken and the information provided. Part crime thriller and part SF action and all incredibly well drawn, Zaya is stylish and clever, but very expensive these days. Time for a reprint, perhaps.