Comic Review: Grass Kings, Issue 3

[MINOR SPOILERS from previous issues head)

Recap: The Grass Kingdom is a commune. There are no laws but those the people who live there keep for themselves. Native Americans once lived on this land, it has been fought for and lost and blood has watered the grass that grows there. Now The Grass King, Robert, and his older brother, Bruce (who is the active, though unauthorized, law enforcer in The Grass Kingdom) are about to butt heads with the sheriff of Cargill, the neighboring town, to the point of no return. It may have something to do with a young woman who Robert found in the river outside his house. The previous night Robert took her in, thinking, at first she was his missing daughter. We left off the story of The Grass Kingdom when the sheriff of Cargill sent his goon, Big Dan, to find this mysterious woman, though who she is, we’re still not sure.

 

Set Up: Perhaps this should be titled Prologue, but I think “set up” is also a good term. A prologue is defined as “a separate introductory section of a literary or musical work,” which I suppose would be appropriate, but in my experience prologues commonly feel disconnected from the plot in many significant ways, typically until the end of the literary work. In a comic book, published in floppies (22-page booklet), however, a reminder needs to be given every issue. “This is where you are. This is the world you will live in for this issue.” With this in mind, issue 3 opens on a sunset or sunrise spread across a plane. Two small cars chase another. 1920. Prohibition. Small bangs come from each. The people are shooting at each other. The smugglers try to board a bSee the source imageoat to make it across the lake. A man is shot. His body is left floating in the lake.

Plot: We pick up the story ninety-eight years later in Roberts house. We learn Maria swam to The Grass Kingdom from Cargill, forty miles up-river. She reveals, without preamble, she is Sheriff Humbert’s wife. The Sheriff of Cargill. At the same time, Big Dan is hiding in the woods outside Robert’s home. When Robert makes to leave the house to go get some food (all he has in his fridge is beer) he years something. Big Dan tries to force entry into Robert’s house only to be confronted by Robert. Big Dan is in process of beating the tar out of Robert when Maria comes out the back door, a gun pointed at Big Dan’s head.

Character: This is the moment in which Maria’s role as a distressed damsel disappears. She shoots Big Dan in the back of the head. Then a view more times, just to make sure. Meanwhile, Robert’s older brother, the lawman of The Grass Kingdom has found Pinball, who was beaten up by Big Dan. Pinball’s got a concussion, but people are taking care of him. Bruce knows something is wrong immidiately. He sees Big Dan’s footprints and makes his way to Robert’s home, just through the woods. When Bruce knocks on Robert’s door, there’s a wonderful exchange between the two brothers. It reveals a lot about how they interact. When Robert tells Bruce about how dan died, Bruce’s immediate reaction is to get rid of the body. Robert mentions sinking it in the lake, but the first thing the police will do is drag the lake. Robert should know this.

Character background is revealed through a collection of sepia images. It recounts how Robert became convinced there was a serial killer in the area and how the police of Cargill didn’t do anything. When the police dragged the lake they found a collection of remains, but nothing conclusive. The idea didn’t die though. Robert still suspects there is a serial killer somewhere in their midsts.

Art: As in the two previous issues the watercolor sets the tone of this issue as well. However, there is a subtle difference here. Much of what I noticed was the background colors the artist used. Everything done in secrecy has a backdrop of dark blues and purples, everything done in violence, when blood is shed, has a backdrop of reds, oranges, and yellows. Even when Maria shoots Big Dan, which happens at night, Tyler Jenkins splices in some bloody colors amid the dark tones of the night sky. It’s artfully done and creates a mood in each panel. One that is both oppressive in its closeness as well as expansive in scope. These backdrop colors foreshadow the events of each scene. I’ll look for this clever construct in the future.

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