“Every society has its hierarchy, and college student Suchan Jang is at the top of the human one. But despite his popularity and charisma, he has a secret that keeps him from getting close with others—under his clothes lies a pair of dragonfly wings! And when he's forced to expose them to save the girl he likes, Suchan suddenly finds himself plummeting to the bottom of the food chain. It is then, alone and at his lowest point, that he is introduced to a hidden society of fellow human-insect hybrids. Abuzz with both friend and foe, this world offers Suchan the opportunity to seize a new start for himself…All that's left is climbing his way back to the top!” (Ize Press)
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Hyeong Eun's “Jungle Juice” exemplifies why Korean WebToon/manhwa series dominate here in the West, merging engaging teenage drama with explosive action with such joy that now escapes many of the mainstream comic-book publishers. Indeed, “Jungle Juice” is pure, unrestrained fun, making the work an easy-to-pick-up but hard-to-put-down series, thanks to several factors that blend well together.
Notably, the students at the underground university that caters to bug-folk have richly diverse characters tied to unique abilities depending on what insect they have melded with. Suchan Jang's powers are perfectly chosen for the protagonist, presenting a delicate balance of speed and extra sensory abilities that force him to find mastery over his powers while overcoming vulnerabilities from predators of the dragonfly. Consequently, alliances with others become key to the plot as alliances and relationships with other insect kin become essential to Jang's understanding of his abilities.
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Besides being an ideally balanced hero, regarding his powers, Suchan Jang is an ideal protagonist in exploring the new world dominated by human/insect hybrids. Moreover, he has a defined sense of morality and compassion, making him instantly likable and worth cheering on. The supporting cast is equally well-rounded, and even the more extreme personas, such as Professor Ji, are balanced and humanized to be still engaging. As the premise of “Jungle Juice” is slightly silly, balancing multiple personalities and making them cohesively fit into the world is one of the series' greatest strengths.
As competent as the writing is, it is essential to note that the content stays at surface level. There are no grander allegories, attempts at addressing social injustices, or pandering to the reader. Hyeong Eun presents a straightforward action series where teens with bug powers face off against one another to try to make it to the top of the class. It is in this simplicity that “Jungle Juice” thrives.
Visually, “Jungle Juice” is one of the sharpest-looking books in the action genre. The way that Juder combines fast action with images of insects to re-iterate where the combatants are drawing their strength is wonderfully conceptualized and executed on the pages. In addition, minor details don't go overlooked as backdrops convey a chaotic campus lifestyle, while character fashions make them feel hip and modern.
The inaugural volume of “Jungle Juice” paints the story as still in its infancy. There is plenty of room to expand and reason to be excited to see where Hyeong Eun may take the story. Conversely, this leaves slight reservations about whether the series can keep up the pacing and excitement of the first release. Still, given the book is well-constructed, there is ample reason to be optimistic about the series' future instead of worrying how it could fall apart.
As it stands, “Jungle Juice” may be the most exciting and entertaining manhwa to come to print. Combine this with the artistic skills of Juder, and the book is a must-read/collect for those who like action/hero comics. However, with how clean and sharp the content is presented, the physical release is, undeniably, the preferred way to enjoy “Jungle Juice.”