Publisher: Madius Comics
Writer(s): Rob Jones, Mike Sambrook
Artist: Rory Donald
Release Date: Coming Soon (Kickstarter in progress now)
For their latest offering, Madius Comics are shifting gears into the sea shanty singing, monster hunting world of Griff Gristle, an old timer who finds himself drawn to the quiet town of Charlsberg following several of its inhabitants going missing under suspicious, supernatural circumstances. The Madius team launched a Kickstarter to fund the first issue on Thursday, and have hit their target already – something which should come as absolutely no surprise to those familiar with their previous work.
Perhaps the most impressive trait of Madius Comics – besides the sheer consistency of their output – is the way that co-writers Rob Jones and Mike Sambrook are able to turn their distinctive voices to almost any genre. While this is a completely different tone from the likes of Papercuts and Inkstains, The King’s Leap or Ramlock Investigates, there’s something unmistakably Madius about the delivery, not to mention a distinctive sense of charm to what could otherwise be a fairly dour, overly serious tale.
The story is a relatively straightforward one, with Griff discovering a little about the supernatural secrets of Charlsberg – partnered by feisty youngster Justine, the sister of one of the men who were swallowed up by the menacing fog – before heading off to sea to try and fix the problem. The first half of the story is fairly exposition heavy, with Jones and Sambrook clearly having a blast with the dialogue as Griff obtains the information he needs from the townsfolk. The distinctive style of speech works well to emphasise the small-town fishing village vibe, even if that bubble is occasionally burst by some slightly jarring pop culture references.
Providing a sharp contrast, the second half ramps up both the pace and the action, fully embracing the supernatural “monster hunter” potential of the premise as Griff dives down to the sea bed to investigate the source of the disturbance. The Hellboy influence is worn proudly throughout, particularly in Griff’s dry, gruff demeanour and glib narration of events to Justine on the boat. Everything is wrapped up tidily enough by the end, and as a one-and-done story in its own right, this would be a satisfying enough offering. However, with an epilogue that hints to a far bigger story begging to be told, not to mention the magic words “Griff Gristle will return…”, the true nature of this release – an opening chapter to a brand new story – is far more satisfying.
Speaking of satisfying, Rory Donald’s artwork is an absolute revelation here, with a highly-stylised, angular approach that’s more than a little reminiscent of a certain Mister Mignola himself. Yeah, I said it. One of the other things Jones and Sambrook truly excel at is finding the perfect artist to give their stories just the right aesthetic, and in Donald’s heavily-inked, jagged lines and stark, washed-out colours, they’ve managed to do just that. From Griff’s blank stare as he puffs away on his pipe to the whirling, screaming “mists of the damned”, Donald does a truly commendable job here, giving this book a distinctive look all of its own.
As a one-shot, this would have been an enjoyable aside, but as the first step into a whole new world, I’m absolutely giddy at the prospect of joining Griff on his adventures and becoming a full-fledged #crustyfisherpunk in the months and years to come. Striking, exciting and packed to the gills with salty seadog charm, Griff Gristle may very well have cemented its place as my favourite Madius title so far – which, given the strength of their previous offerings, is high praise indeed.
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The Kickstarter for Griff Gristle: Here Be Monsters is set to run until May 27th, and you can check it out by CLICKING HERE.