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Comic Review: Taking Eden
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Taking Eden #1 CoverTaking Eden
Issues #1–4
Created by Jason Beckwith & Malcolm Johnson
Written by Jason Beckwith
Art by Nino Harn Cajayon
Colors by Gonzalo Duarte
Never Static Pictures
Release Date: December, 2012
Cover Price: $4.99

Jason Beckwith takes us into the murky depths of a sordid, occult-tinged club scene in his new series Taking Eden. The comic’s genesis was a writing exercise between Beckwith and Malcolm Johnson while working at a design agency. Beckwith ran forward with their idea, refining the story over the past 10 years. The result is a wonderfully dark indie comic that mixes novel-like, scene-setting, third-person narration with sequential art.

Marnie is a small-town, down-home girl brimming with naiveté. Taking Eden begins a year after the actual story with Marnie offering a vague hope that she was a puppet rather than acting on her own volition. The story then jumps back to when she made her move to the big city to follow her dreams of becoming an actor. Her cousin, Gretchen, shows Marnie a good time by letting her tag along while she DJs in the club scene. Marnie’s innocence is the key ingredient that an unscrupulous sorcerer, named Sky, needs to produce the hottest drug on the scene: Eden. Sky is a hot-shot club owner who’s creating his own empire based on Eden, which only he knows how to make. His club gives him access to young, innocent women to juice his new drug.

Sky’s drug provides him a self-perpetuating fortune; the more popular Eden becomes, the easier it is to access innocent women in his club and make more of it. The process is detrimental to both the “donor” and the person performing the extraction, so Sky relies on David and Crystal to provide women and extract their innocence. Unfortunately for Marnie, Crystal hones in on her like shark to a solitary baby seal. Marnie has little memory of that night, but as Taking Eden progresses, more memories come back. It’s not clear what exactly is meant by “innocence,” but Marnie’s innocence produced an especially potent batch of Eden. One that even hooks in Sky. The usually calm and cool club owner demands more where that came from like one of his junkie clients.

Sky sends Crystal out on the hunt to find Marnie. The story of Taking Eden focuses on Marnie and Sky, but also gives generous attention to the supporting cast of Crystal, Gretchen, and David. Sky is an intriguing and multi-faceted character; Jason Beckwith’s excitement about writing this character is evident on the page. Sky’s a self-made man of sorts. As a bookish orphan, he hitchhiked to the big city years ago. He took a job at a little known bookstore that allowed him the free time to devour books on the occult and magic. Sky parlayed this knowledge into a doomed love spell and, ultimately, the innocence extraction spell to produce his golden ticket: Eden. Now he’s a rich and powerful drug-lord with an insatiable thirst for more power leading him to commit ever further acts of greed and cruelty.

Marnie is haunted by her flashbacks of the night when Crystal and David extracted some of her innocence for Eden. Sky has been desperately hunting for the source of that innocence again. Taking Eden #4 hits an interesting crossroad. At a club, Marnie enters some kind of dance trance, which lures Sky’s attention. He woos her and she takes the bait. Neither one of them realize who the other truly is, but there seems to be a romantic spark between them. Marnie’s spark is innocent. Sky’s motivation may be for more innocence juice, but I get the feeling that Marnie might have a deeper effect on him. The story can take a number of paths from this point; I’m anxious to see what happens when they discover each other’s true identities.

Jason Beckwith utilizes heavy third-person, past tense narration, which is unusual for a comic. The lengthy narratives make Taking Eden almost a hybrid short story/comic. I’m not usually a fan of narration, but that’s because the gritty, witty, first-person banter trope has worn me down over the years. I’m old and grumpy like that.

The narration works to a certain extent. When the story is focused on Marnie, Gretchen, or Sky, the story was mesmerizing; the third-person narratives set the scene and sucked me right into the characters’ world. However, when the story switched to the less interesting characters, Crys and David, I found myself skimming the narration. Taking Eden #4 begins with the main characters’ stories, but then hits a narrative-clogged tangent with Crys and David. Perhaps, down the road, their stories will gain more momentum, but throughout most of that issue I was begging for a return to Marnie that never happened. That’s the danger with multiple points of view: readers may be tempted to skim those portions of the story, especially when facing monolithic blocks of scene-setting narrative.

Nino Harn Cajayon‘s scratchy, heavy-lined art complements Taking Eden’s dark, seedy atmosphere. Cajayon’s strength is in the his characters’ conversational expressions, gestures, and body language. The action scenes, however, feature some awkward, mid-punch, poses that look like a photograph taken a split-second too soon. But Taking Eden is a sullen, dialogue-driven storyline that has very few action scenes anyway. Several noticeable misspellings in the script could be easily cleaned up with a good edit.

Taking Eden is a unique take on a familiar small-town-girl-gets-mixed-up-in-club-scene plot. I’m curious where the story is going with Marnie and Sky. Very few comic writers take Jason Beckwith’s third-person narrative technique and, so far, it’s working out well. The focus of the comic may be spread too thin with secondary characters receiving far too much panel-time, but the main characters make this comic worth reading if you like dark, occult underworld type of comics.

Jason Beckwith and Taking Eden will be available at Big Wow! ComicFest this May 18-19, 2013, in San Jose, CA.

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