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.

Comic Review: Grass Kings, Issue 1

Grass Kings #1First, I gotta say, this is a comic I’m very interested in. By the end of the first issue, I wanted more and was happy to see that #2 was also on Comixology Unlimited.

Setting: The scene is set for this piece in a wonderfully unique way. It starts with narration, common enough, and depicts a Native American tribe. The narration all about the story of the land. Right off the bat, I understood that this story was as much about ownership as it is about peoples’ lives. After one native man kills another and takes the dead man’s wife as his own, there is a collection of time jumps, each a single panel. Each panel jumps about a century ahead, each showing the same land with different things on it. One of the ending lines of narration sums the whole tone of the issue up well. “This land has been fought for.” The time jumps stop on what is called, “now,” but it really looks more like the 70s or 80s. The same land, but something new is on it.

Plot: We pick up in a more contemporary time with a young man being shoved into the back of a cop car. We’re quickly told, but the apprehended young man that the cop isn’t really a cop at all. He’s a flunky cop that rules this little community, The Grass Kingdom like his own. His younger brother is “The Grass King.” The “cop” tells Lo, the young man all about how this community works. They take care of each other. They look out for each other. The only laws are the ones the people of The Grass Kingdom set for themselves. The main point of #1 is setting up the expectations. The real plot, the intrigue, the inciting incident, isn’t revealed until the last page, and I was like–oh! which is a good sign.

Art: Art sells comics. The art in this comic sold me on it. I liked the cover of #1. It’s ink and watercolor. I like that impressionistic style. I like the rawness of it. I like the gradients of the hues. Nothing in watercolor is that dark, so anything the artist wanted to be a dark color they had to go over it again with another layer. The result is awesome. It’s a bit of a juxtaposition as the content is pretty grim, but then there are these pastel colors–really beautiful landscapes and fairyland tranquility. But underneath what seems a paradise some dark secrets are hidden.

Conclusion: Yes, I’ll be reading #2, probably later today or tomorrow morning. The execution is right. The intrigue is spectacular, and the dialogue is right on. The writer (Matt Kindt) does dialect well. He doesn’t misspell anything. Instead, he uses syntax to illustrate the way people speak. A wonderful first issue to a piece that shows a ton of promise.

Write Night 2018

So. I’ve been thinking. Always danger, I know. Usually, when I think I have a good idea I take a couple Advil and go lay down for a nap, and by the time I wake up the idea doesn’t seem as good anymore.

Whether it’s because I thought of this idea while I was meditating, or perhaps I didn’t follow my usual advice and take that Advil and a nap, I’ve sorta dedicated myself to this idea of Write Night 2018.

Write Night 2018, Saturday, June 3rd-Sunday June 4th. What this means is an all-nighter. An all night writing marathon. 7pm to 7am. Of course, breaks are a good idea. Food is also needed, and lots and lots of coffee.

Why do this? Well, if you must know (and of course you must, you’re here reading this to find out), it’s because of a few reasons.

  1. I start a ton of pieces I don’t finish and then skip around from one to another trying to figure out which one to finish. Write Night is a moment to finish. That’s what Write night is all about. Get as many pieces, as many drafts done, as you can. This might just mean finishing those last 6000 words on that novel you’ve been avoiding (that’s not me) or wrapping up the plot thread of your first volume graphic novel (that’s me) and maybe finish revision a couple short stories (also me). The point is, NaNoWriMo exists for people to write 50,000 words in one month. Write Night is the other part of that. It’s all about wrapping something up.
  2. I just haven’t had much dedicated writing time as of late. June 3rd-4th is my first weekend when I don’t have to get up and go teach high schoolers on Monday. I want to celebrate with a huge writing marathon!
  3. Maybe some people will take notice. Probably not the first time around, but this is something I’d like to do every June. 1 night a year. Write Night. I will be live streaming myself–maybe on Twitch or something. It will probably be a pretty boring stream, but that’s not the point. It will be 12 hours (more or less) of writing time. Maybe other people will join in some day. Maybe not. But this should be fun, and difficult. And I love both of those things.