Comic Review: Grass Kings, Issue 4

(Minor spoilers ahead in reference to this and all previous issues)

The land was once an airfield for the Royal Flying Corps back in the days of WWI. That’s why The Grass Kingdom has its own airfield.

The set up opens on a sunset sky, two old biplanes fly over water, toward the land. The sunset tones are the same used to indicate bloodshed in the previous issue.

Character: Maria comes into her own. She finally tells Robert how her husband treated her. That he ruled her life. Threatened to have her deported if she didn’t do what he wanted. She came to The Grass Kingdom for protection and for freedom. She heard about Humbert talk about The Grass Kingdom all the time, and he hated it. To Maria, it sounded like freedom.

Plot: Much of this issue is dedicated to the tension between Humbert and Bruce. After Big Dan doesn’t come back, Lo, another of Humbert’s thugs, returns to Humbert and is concerned something awful has happened. He isn’t wrong. Irate, Humbert goes to confront Robert, but Bruce blocks his path by parking a car across the road. The dialogue between Bruce and Humbert is fraught with tension. The art does a great job of illustrating the fury in Humbert–but we’ll get to that in a second. Humbert continues to Robert’s house on foot. Robert is waiting for him–he’s shocked that the Sheriff of Cargill is finally doing his job.

A flashback ensues concerning the investigation of a series of murders. Robert is convinced his daughter is one of those victims, but the police never found any evidence connecting her disappearance to the rash of murders that cropped up during that time. In the flashback there’s been a murder–they think, blood all over someone’s house, but no body. Humbert is there, sent by the Mayor of Cargill to investigate. Bruce and Robert show Humbert what they’ve found. They ask that Humbert share information, so they too can investigate. Humbert refuses, claiming that its hypocritical of them to live off the grid, not pay taxes or contribute to the city and then want the protection those contributions would warrant. Humbert has a point. Both Robert and Bruce are too suspicious of Humbert to want to live in Cargill, so Humbert leaves and doesn’t share his information with them.

The narrative comes back to the present. Robert points out the irony of the shoe being on the other foot. Humbert wants information and Robert is damned if he’s going to give the Sheriff a whiff. Humber leaves, but both Robert and Bruce know the man will be back, and with friends. The two brothers split up and tell the residence of The Grass Kingdom to arm up–trouble is coming.

Art: The art of this comic takes some time getting used to. I find myself slightly put off by it every time I pick it up for a new issue. The feeling of bewilderment only lasts about a page or two, but in those pages, I look at the rawness and it seems sloppy. Only after a couple pages do I begin to appreciate the flowing watercolors. This piece is all about tone and emotion–much of the tension is built by way of colors. For instance, Humbert’s fury is manifested as blotchy redness just below his eyes. When Humber squares off with Robert, the contrast of the cool sky, and the dusty colored ground they stand on, gives a sense of tempers boiling up, warm colors low, cool colors high. By the time Humber leaves the colors are reversed; Robert sits on the porch which is a dull gray, behind him and above are deep purples fading into a water red sunset. In many ways, the art of this comic is akin to poetry. It is more about creating a feeling than telling a story. The dialogue is what drives the story, not the art itself. Without the lettering, I’m unsure if I’d know what this story is about. But I’d still feel something from the art.

Conclusion: This feels like a building issue. An issue that is necessary for a lot of excitement to happen NEXT issue. All plots have an ebb and flow. An up and down. Like tides Tension must build, release, and build again. While the tension in this issue is, physically, pretty low, emotionally it feels high–which I predict will manifest as physical tension and excitement in issue 5. A great comic for someone who wants to learn about tension building in this medium, like myself.

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