By Paul Grist
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics
Paul Grist is a creator on my "buy everything he works on" list. His police drama Kane was a dark drama with hysterically funny moments interspersed throughout (and I live in eternal hope of more material), and his Jack Staff comic was a wonderful explosion of old-time superheroics set in Britain, taking familiar concepts and twisting them into his own unique ideas. (A fifth collection for my bookshelf would be much appreciated, incidentally.) He’s now unveiled a new series, Mudman, and so far? It’s another winner.
Mudman is beginning with a slow build; we meet Owen Craig, a teenager who has a crush on the new girl, tags with spray paint the old abandoned home in town, and might be finding himself with the ability to transform into mud and back. What’s great about Mudman is that there’s no rush from Grist to leap right into the middle of things. So while the book starts with a fast-paced sequence, from there we get a glimpse of Owen’s home and personal life, interspersed with daydreams that might be more prophetic than Owen realizes. Grist keeps it interesting, though; he switches scenes and plunges us back into the middle of the action right when we least expect it.
More importantly, Grist brings to the page the strangeness and wonder of it all. Presumably there aren’t any other active super-heroes in the world of Mudman, and so instead of instantly thinking he must be one of them (like you’d see in a larger superhero setting), we’re getting Owen amazement and disbelief when it comes to each of the different situations he’s placed in. There’s also a certain level of creepiness to the entire affair, from Owen first finding his hands turning into mud, to his dream of being swallowed by the mud. Wonder and fear are two different sides of the same coin, and Grist flips back and forth between those two halves effortlessly.
Grist is one of the first artists that I saw regularly using a stripped down, simpler style and over the years he’s proven to be a master of the look. I love some of the simple tricks he uses in his art, like how Owen’s legs vanish into the darkness of the old house (making it feel that much more dark and creepy), or the little "splut" sound effect as Owen is hit by the car and flips over its hood. And when Owen’s having his nightmare, well, it’s suitably eerie with the rings of mud hovering around his body, sucking him in. His storytelling is great, too; that final page and how it’s a single image but split into three panels draws attention to first the dialogue, then the "uh oh" moment, and then the nothingness that is perfect for a "to be continued" moment. He’s a master of his craft, easily.
Image Comics has been turning out great new series after great new series lately, and Mudman is no exception to that rule. I know in the past some of Grist’s series have had problems with timeliness, but hopefully we’ll get more of this and soon. This is too much fun to have to wait too terribly long for the next installment. More Mudman, please.