Graphic Novel Review: Djeliya: A West African Fantasy Epic by Juni Ba

Djeliya: A West African Fantasy Epic by Juni Ba. TKO Studios, 2021. 9781952203244. 180pp.

The Wizard Suomaoro destroyed the world from high in his ivory tower. Now Awa Kouyat√©, last in a line of djeli guiding the rulers of Keita, is helping Mansour, the surviving heir to the Keita throne, race the holy man Mbam to the tower’s secrets. (Awa and Monsour are actually to blame for the situation — the pair stole a criminal lord’s powerful juju for Mbam, which allowed him to break into the tower.) Mbam sees himself as on a quest to restore order by replacing the wizard. But Awa and Mansour need to beat him to the top, to stop him from ruining the world.

This post-apocalyptic tale has traits of superhero and manga comics, along with giant djinnes, monstrous criminals, magic, and high technology. The art is as kinetic and energetic in places as FLCL. It runs the gamut from wild colors to black and white, and turning from one page to the next I never knew what to expect. From berserk layouts to old school manga screen tones, this book has everything and it all works. The story itself is demanding, going backward and forward in time in a rhythm that needs more concentration than the average graphic novel, but which is so worth reading and rereading. What a book!

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