One problem with reviewing monthlies is that, as a reviewer, you can only review month to month. There are writers that will leave each issue at a point, wanting you to read the next one. They’ll build in hooks and twists and turns and frame each issue just so, so that by the end, you want to come back. Matt Kindt can certainly do that. He has the skills to make that happen. Sometimes, however, a writer wants to break that mold; they want to take their time, be a little freer and looser and not adhere to the tropes of writing a serial. This makes it difficult for a reviewer that reviews based on what’s in front of them at the end of every month’s issue. With these sorts of books, it’s sometimes makes it hard to fully grade until an entire story arc is in. Grass Kings falls into the latter camp more than the former, and this issue (the end of the second story arc) left me very pleased that I’ve stayed on board.
I care most about the characters in this weird, almost utopian kingdom, and this second arc left those cares nurtured. I want to know who they are, I want to know their secrets, I want to be a voyeur. I want to know more about this true crime-style story in rural America, on a plot of land where blood has flowed for centuries. I want to know how the past either does…or doesn’t repeat itself. When violence is the mythology, when you plant a seed in blood-soaked soil, the history from whence these current decisions are based on – I want to know where Kindt thinks that puts us, because you better believe he has humanity on his mind, and after two arcs in this pretty amazing series, you can start to see that vision that’s been there since page one of issue one finally coming to fruition.
Jim Campbell (letters) keeps things pretty straightforward, so much so that you almost miss the wonderful placement of his words to draw out effective drama. Just after a nicely handwritten letter is revealed (Great work from Campbell there.), we see a closeup of the face of one of the characters, panicked. That face is framed by two voice-overs – one on top and one on the bottom – the words seemingly keeping him captive in that moment of terror. Another panel has the words “I made a mistake” perfectly placed within the image, almost like it’s floating away with the mistake that was made. If a letterer is doing a great job, like this, you won’t notice how great a job they are doing. You’ll just feel it. You want to create comics? Keep your eyes on details like this.
The team of Tyler Jenkins (art) and Hilary Jenkins (colors) draws you into this rural world. I grew up in and around rural America, and there’s a real authenticity that the duo brings to their imagery. There’s something stark, lonely, and in that regard unnerving about middle America. Faces appear and disappear as they pass through. You never know who’s coming and going. But middle America is also beautiful: sensual in its colors, alluring with its simplicity, and still… so still it’s quiet.
This is the end of the second arc, and there’s still so much I don’t know . . . and even more that I want to know.