The Ring of Saturn

The Ring of SaturnCreator: KaiJu
Publisher: Chromatic Press
ISBN: 9780993861178
Released: May 2015
Original run: 2014

The Ring of Saturn was the first work that I read by KaiJu, a creative team made up of animator Jennifer Xu and cartoonist Kate Rhodes. A short three-part comic, The Ring of Saturn was first serialized online in Chromatic Press’ multimedia magazine Sparkler Monthly in 2014. The comic was collected as an ebook soon after and then in 2015 the print edition was released. I initially read The Ring of Saturn online as it was being serialized and was very impressed by the comic, so I was looking forward owning a physical copy. The gorgeous cover artwork was what first caught my attention, but the comic’s musical elements and historical drama immediately appealed to me as well. Although The Ring of Saturn stands completely on its own, the comic is actually a side story, a pilot of sorts, for a much larger work pitched by KaiJu to Chromatic Press. Based on the strength of The Ring of Saturn alone, I hope to one day see that project come to fruition. In the meantime, I’m very happy to have The Ring of Saturn.

Miriam Frayne is a student of Gustav Holst, the Director of Music at the prestigious St. Paul’s Girls’ School. Although a skilled pianist with a passion for music, she is confounded by the solo arrangement of Holst’s “Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age.” She simply can’t seem to grasp its meaning or feeling, much preferring the rousing “Jupiter” movement of the suite which better suits her exuberant temperament and style of playing. It’s that energy that captures the attention of Rasim Rahal, a young astronomer who is intrigued by Holst’s work. At first Miriam is annoyed by Raz, but she soon finds herself warming up to him. Although he’s not the only one to express enjoyment of Miriam’s performance of “The Bringer of Old Age,” she herself continues to be dissatisfied and frustrated with it. And while Miriam continues to struggle with “Saturn” her country is locked in a struggle of its own—The Great War. Though seemingly far removed from her quiet life at school, the war is something that will affect everyone, including Miriam.

The Ring of Saturn, pages 69-70One of the things that I love about The Ring of Saturn is how the music forms a parallel to the narrative of the comic and to Miriam’s development as a character. The music serves as a metaphor for growth and change in a way that is remarkably effective and which never comes across as trite. “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity” is a flashy piece with a sense of brilliance. As Miriam describes it, it steadily moves forward with purpose. “The Bringer of Jollity” captures Miriam as she is at the beginning of the comic—youthful and fervent, though perhaps a little naive when it comes to some of the harsher realities of life and of war. But by the end of The Ring of Saturn, Miriam is finally able to understand and even identify with “The Bringer of Old Age.” She has had to grow up, and with that maturity she is able to approach the music and her life more fully. She is no longer the person she once was, which can be seen in both how she acts and in how she plays. Miriam has become wiser with age and with experience.

Music, which is beautifully conveyed visually throughout The Ring of Saturn, is a critical component of the work. The Ring of Saturn also one of the few comics that I know of in which a composer, and a historical one at that, plays an important role. And it’s certainly the only one that I’m aware of that features Holst. While the details in The Ring of Saturn aren’t quite as intricate, KaiJu’s work in the comic reminds me of some of the manga by Kaoru Mori in both its artwork and in how history is incorporated into its setting and story. The Ring of Saturn is historical fiction and so some freedom has been taken with historical fact, but the feeling of era is there. I also enjoyed the comic’s witty and poetic dialogue. The Ring of Saturn is a short comic, well under a hundred pages, but it is also satisfyingly complete. Reading it again I love it just as much as I did the first time and have perhaps come to appreciate even more what KaiJu has accomplished with The Ring of Saturn.

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