Amazing Agent Jennifer
DeFilippis, Nunzio & Weir, Christina (story); Sison, Kriss (art)
OEL Manga – Action, mystery, romance
2 Volumes (complete)
Long before she was the superior agent (and creator) of Luna, the ultimate secret agent, Jennifer was an amazingly talented college student with a strained relationship with her parents. But when she’s given a chance to join an elite government agency, Jennifer may finally be able to pursue her dreams, as dangerous as they may be!
Amazing Agent Jennifer is a pretty good short secret agent story.
As I said in my Amazing Agent Luna review, this prequel was written in the middle of Luna. Later volumes connect to this series, and it’s recommended that Luna readers either start with Jennifer or read Luna up to Volume 6 first. The problem a lot of times with prequels is that it often improves upon the original’s flaws. In this case, Jennifer tackles my biggest complaint about Luna: it’s more of a spy thriller. Hi-tech gadgets, teams, an elite heroine, code names — just about everything “cool” I wanted to see in Luna.
Obviously, though, there are some trade-offs. Most notably, the school life portion. Jennifer is hardly an outgoing person, and plus the series is only two volumes. The series eventually skips ahead four years, but there really isn’t much to tell about those four years.
You see, the story starts off with Jennifer enrolling in college, upset that her father is dictating what classes she’s supposed to take in order to inherit the family business. Her mother, though, disagrees with her husband: she wants her daughter to marry a good (read: rich) man. So when she’s approached with the opportunity to financially free herself from her father, Jennifer takes it. And every weekend she and other recruits train in hopes of officially entering The Agency. This combined with her heavy college schedule means she has no time for friends — not that she wants them anyway. Her roommate, Kimberly, is hyperactive and overly friendly, but she’s closer to a fellow recruit called Trainee L (name later revealed to be Dan). Dan’s interest in Jennifer turns romantic, and the manga skips ahead to their final exam to become official agents. This all takes place in the first volume.
In short, serious Jennifer doesn’t put much effort into friendship, but she finds herself falling for Dan. The Agency doesn’t want agents mixing business with pleasure, but Dan wants to disregard the rules. How they view their relationship and their future together is one of the key points in the manga, so I won’t discuss anything further.
Jennifer does become a favorite of their mentor, who is known as Master Control. It’s no surprise since Jennifer is routinely at the top of every test. In return, she starts looking at him like a father figure, a man fully supporting her goals, unlike her real dad. Agent D is a female senior agent, and the four of them eventually undertake a mission in the (fictional) country of Bruckenstein that causes a lot of changes in their lives.
As I mentioned earlier, Amazing Agent Jennifer is meant to be read in the middle of Amazing Agent Luna. But it is pretty good at being a stand-alone story. It will seem bizarre that a high school project by Jennifer is so important versus being something she managed to work on at The Agency, but those are the kinds of details that the original series established that Jennifer can’t change. The second volume of Jennifer does include some information about what happens in Luna in the end-of-volume bonuses. So you could either skip it and just know that Jennifer continued her work, or read it and get a summary of half of Luna with the option to either continue or leave it alone. Luna will explore some of the things in Jennifer, so if you do read Volumes 7+, it will act as a direct sequel to Jennifer.
Regardless of Amazing Agent Luna, Jennifer has a limited time to cover its story, and so there are several revelations that come out quickly. I do wish there was a third volume so that it could have followed a three-arc structure: Jennifer training to join The Agency, life at The Agency, and the mission that changes all. This would have made the betrayals more surprising, as although Jennifer is close to them, readers, not so much. Especially since second volume advertises betrayals; with a limited cast, well, there’s not a lot of room for surprises.
Still, it has the traditional — somewhat safe but still addicting — secret agent and special agent plot as they try to investigate Bruckenstein. The royal family and their views toward the US play into the story as Jennifer and other agents prepare to sneak in. This is probably the part of the plot that is most restricted by Jennifer being a prequel, but the authors do their best to keep it a stand-alone work. Readers of only Jennifer will probably care the least about the relations between the two countries. Instead, they are more interested in Jennifer and her squad versus the machinations of Bruckenstein and The Agency.
It’s also easy to dislike Jennifer because she excels at everything (Olympic reservist athlete, groundbreaking scientist, etc.). But this also comes with a strained relationship with her parents who only want her to be a doll in either the business world or to a businessman husband. And, while she is interesting to read about, Jennifer is often a jerk. Her valedictorian speech was basically, “FU, audience. Y’all are probably party kids while I am getting a great job.” Kimberly is a chatterbox, but she’s a nice person who doesn’t register Jennifer’s distant attitude toward her. (Think that neighbor guy in The Grinch movie.) Jennifer is kinder toward Dan and the other recruits, so she’s basically an elitist snob.
Eventually though, the side of the woman in love and the elite agent clash, and one eventually wins out. A lot of this may have turned into annoying melodrama starring a rude-but-capable heroine, but the short length works in Jennifer’s favor. There are also a couple of moments where I could see it sparking a discussion among readers about whether [insert character] did the right thing or if [insert character] should have done this vs. that.
The artist is different from Amazing Agent Luna. The story takes place 15-20 years before Luna, so Jennifer is obviously a lot younger here. The two artists have their own styles, so you could ascribe the differences in the art to be because of the characters’ ages. Jennifer looks more like a work you’d see serialized in a manga magazine. Sison’s art reminds me of Toyama of Missions of Love and other works. A couple of her heroines have long hair and glasses, and Jennifer looks like she could be their older sister. (Jennifer is half Japanese by the way, even though she doesn’t look it.)
Amazing Agent Jennifer is closer to what I wanted Luna to be. Of course, it is restricted in its story as a prequel, and a short one at that.
The original series, Amazing Agent Luna, is also available from Seven Seas. DeFilippis and Weir have also collaborated on Destiny’s Hand, Dragon Age comics, and more. Sison has also drawn Last Hope, Seven Seas’ version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and others.
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This definitely sounds like a really fun prequel. It’s good to here that we got more of the spy elements here. I rarely get to watch/read the prequels first because I don’t tend to know them very much til I start the original but I do think if possible reading the prequel first does help the main experience. It’s fun to already know the character so when she appears in the main series you have that “Aha!” moment. Too bad it’s so short though, sounds like it’s over as soon as it starts.
Yeah, both Luna and Jennifer have different strength and weaknesses. Despite the length, I think I actually prefer Jennifer since it’s kind of like a manga adaptation of a spy origin story movie. And unlike most prequels, there’s not a lot of references that are clearly just for fans of the original.
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