I’m not going to argue that JiUn Yun’s Time and Again (Yen Press) will have the same cultural durability, but the book kind of reminds me of a character played by the young Barbara Stanwyck: sexy, funny, moving and often ruthless. It’s about an exorcist-for-hire who seems more inclined to give his clients what they deserve than what they request.
The malicious charm elevates the book from the already strong pack of ghost-hunter comics. Baek-On, the exorcist, is a lazy drunk. The delicate elegance of his wardrobe is undone almost entirely by the bags under his eyes from last night’s bender. And his skills with the unquiet dead are virtually moot in balance with his indifference towards the unquiet living. For Baek-On, exorcism isn’t a calling; it’s a job, and barely that. Dignity is a paycheck.
Ho-Yeon, Baek-On’s assistant and bodyguard, may view things a little differently. He’s certainly fresher than Baek-On, and he seems more compassionate than his employer, but he’s not quite forceful enough to make Baek-On do anything Baek-On doesn’t care to do. That’s all to the good, because a sober, diligent Baek-On would be no fun at all.
A sober, diligent Time and Again wouldn’t be nearly as much fun either. Rather than telling the specific story of her spiritual mercenaries, Yun seems more interested in the mechanics and possibilities of the ghost story itself. Half of the chapters in this volume require no participation from Baek-On or Ho-Yeon, wandering off to other realms of supernatural despair. While the protagonists may vanish, the tone remains the same. Yun has a real knack for blending heartbreak and horror.
The other running thread is how lanky and gorgeous the illustrations are. While Yun favors long, lean figures, there’s a satisfying variety of body type and facial expression on display. Yun doesn’t shy away from low comedy or gruesome imagery, either. It’s just the right kind of toolbox for this kind of work.
I would have been eager to read the second volume in any case, but Yun ups the ante with an off-kilter cliffhanger. What kind of parent, you may wonder, could unleash a Baek-On onto the world? Yun teases an answer to that question, and it involves a bouffant that might be the most ominous image in the book. I can’t wait to find out more about Baek-On’s mother.