Legend of GrimJack Vol. 1

Written by John Ostrander
Art by Timothy Truman
128 pages, color
Published by IDW Publishing

Everyone has them: those long-forgotten books that you’ve never read, even though all of your friends love it and swear by it. “How can you have not read (insert name of title)?” they’ll cry. “It’s the best thing since sliced bread! Wait, even better than that!” And so you smile and politely nod and promise that you’ll read it, even though you never do. For years, that was me and GrimJack. I had a great excuse, mind you: the series has been out of print for quite a long time. Then IDW Publishing had to go and bring it back into print, and suddenly all my excuses have vanished.

In the city of Cynosure, anything and everything can exist. A dimensional nexus where realities and ideas collide, if you’re looking for something this is the place to find it. If you’re looking for a mercenary who will always get the job, then you should specifically head to Munden’s Bar: that’s where John Gaunt, aka GrimJack, is known to hang out. Vampires? Kidnapping? Killer bunnies? He’s your man.

Originally written as a back-up feature for Starslayer, John Ostrander’s GrimJack scripts start off quick and to the point. They’ve got to be with each chapter just being eight pages, and Ostrander really hits the ground running with a good introduction to the world of Cynosure as well as GrimJack himself. Ostrander is careful to give this multi-dimensional city as much of a character and story as GrimJack in the first story, and it’s an approach that I really appreciate; it’s such a great concept and story backdrop that his paying attention to Cynosure bodes well for future stories. As the book progresses, Ostrander’s second story regarding vampires is also well written, but what surprised me is how part way through, it quietly makes a shift from a story about vampire hunting to one about GrimJack’s past and what it means to be his friend. Even through the action and adventure there’s a certain thoughtfulness to it that really caught my attention; all of the sudden, people’s love for GrimJack began to make sense. It’s also nice to see that Ostrander had a sense of humor well on display here; after the grim vampire story, he promptly follows it up with a story that one could easily refer to as “GrimJack and the Care Bears” if it wasn’t for that whole copyright thing. It’s a fun change of pace, and at the same time it’s a good reminder that anything and everything should and will be possible in this series. The only misstep for me is the final story which teams GrimJack up with the characters from Starslayer; since all the stories in this collection were a backup feature in Starslayer it’s understandable why the characters receive little introduction, but in the end the story just did very little for me.

The Legend of GrimJack opens with a framing sequence newly created by Ostrander and Timothy Truman, introducing the world of Cynosure, and it’s amazing to see both how far Truman’s come since the original GrimJack days as well as how much of his current ability was already around back then. While his newer work has a certain slickness and polish that’s not yet there in the reprints, even then Truman was already beginning to refine his trademark eye for detail and design. Characters look alive and interesting in GrimJack, with outfits that befit their characters. GrimJack himself looks like a mercenary, with his military vest and beret, as well as his battle-worn face. Other characters range from flashy to unobtrusive, everyone looking just a little different. Truman’s able to keep them all looking interesting, from tattoos and piercings to gleaming golden pants and cloaks. In just the short page span of the first volume of The Legend of GrimJack, Truman’s already refining and improving his style and design sense; it’s going to be very interesting to watch the progression from then until now.

All those years of resisting were ultimately for naught; after reading The Legend of GrimJack Vol. 1, I found myself really happy to note that the second collection is due this April. I want to see what Ostrander and Truman can do with issue-long stories, but even more importantly I just want to see more of their work on GrimJack. Between this collection and the all-new GrimJack: Killer Instinct mini-series now both in stores, it’s certainly a good time to be a GrimJack fan, both old and (as I’ve just learned) new. This is a lot of fun.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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