Author: Jass Befrold
Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Action, Adventure, Furry
One of the first comics I reviewed for this site was Raven Wolf. It was ultimately panned for relying too heavily on the novel series that the author originally wrote and having subpar art. However, it had some promising themes and ideas that a more competent author could have really took advantage of. Luckily, we can see what that would be like in Jass Befrold's Djandora. Featuring beautiful art and more nuanced writing, but some minor nitpicks, it is not only a good example of a furry comic, but a good comic in general.
The story takes place in the future. Djeneba, the daughter of a temple guardian, goes to reactivate the temple as part of her father's dying wish. After awakening it, she finds she can't control it and barely escapes alive. Lost in the jungle with no way to survive, she meets a native woman named Nago. She teaches Djeneba survival skills and acts as a mentor figure until she decides that the time has come for her to leave. Alone, Djeneba becomes unsure of herself to the point she even wonders if Nago was real. Later, she's confronted by a robot, showing signs that she's still not capable of protecting herself.
Like Raven Wolf, there appears to be some theme on technology vs. nature, but it appears to be more subtle and more complicated than nature=good and technology=bad. The robots and golems appear to be uncontrollable and dangerous, but at the same time, the temple is the most technologically complex part of the world and seen to be integral for Djeneba to activate. Nature is shown to have a cleansing effect on Djeneba, but at the same time is portrayed as indifferent to whether she survives or not, at one point Nago cites survival of the fittest as the reason the humans died out and the animal-human hybrids remain (though this is like the third time I've seen “the furries shall inheritthe Earth” thing, so I'll probably stop considering that an original concept). Djeneba is stuck between the soul-corrupting but safe world of technology and the more spiritual but dangerous world of nature, and it's unclear which one is better.
The rest of the comic is relatively vague. Most of the backstory is set in the prologue, with either the sarcastic and pervy Gol mocking Djeneba's efforts (thankfully, he gets thrown out early on) or Djeneba narrating. To be fair though, some of the vagueness could be intentional. Djeneba has either forgotten key details or is subconsciously suppressing them, leaving her and the audience little way to retrieve this information. Also, considering that she appears to be possessed by some malevolent force and wonders if Nago and her training even happened, this appears to be a case of an unreliable narrator. I have a feeling that the author has a grasp of everything that's happening in the world and is choosing to hold his cards, I do wish he'd loosen his hands a bit and give us a little more detail.
The art appears to be drawn and colored completely digitally. The prologue is done in color, but later pages are done in grayscale or sepia with spots of color for emphasis. Choosing to do the prologue in color and the rest in grayscale/sepia is an odd choice to say the least. Usually, if a comic or movie was done mostly in color but had segments with no color or highly desaturated, the uncolored segments would be associated with flashbacks, which is the opposite of what we see here. More than likely, the choice was more likely a practical choice than a stylistic one, since working in color takes more time to do than to focus purely on tonal value. But I would say that the comic is stronger that way. The darker, muddier colors have more gravity and seriousness than the scenes in full color. It may have been intentional, as the colored scenes had more of a comedic bent to them than the later acts, though it is jarring to say the least.
The backgrounds vary in detail, from richly detailed to silhouettes to gradients. There's enough of a variety that I wouldn't slag it for lazy background work, instead just showing enough of what is necessary for the scene. The foreground elements and effects are just as good. The character design for Djeneba implies her background and an an aspect of her character, mainly her inexperience. Her outfit has long, flowing loincloth that becomes a hindrance on more than one occasion. It likely is meant to be some sort of ceremonial or ornamental garment, but completely unsuited for hunting. It's tattering corresponds to her learning from her mistakes. The author also utilizes visual effects like using blurs to emphasize action and a shifting in focus, making for interesting action sequences.
Djandora is one of the best comics I've read so far. Boasting some strong visuals paired with a rich backstory. Some of the plot details could be made clearer and the earlier art is rough and has some odd stylistic choices, but I would still highly recommend reading it.