Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Tyler Jenkins
Release Date: 8th March 2017
Welcome to the Grass Kingdom, a tiny, insular community living ‘off the grid’ on a run-down strip of land that has witnessed more than its fair share of conflict over the years. And also, handily, the setting for a brand new rural mystery series from BOOM! Studios, the first issue of which goes on sale this week.
Writer Matt Kindt uses this opening issue to introduce us to the Kingdom, handling the necessary exposition with a level of expertise that should come to be expected from the prolific writer by now. After a brief look back at the troubled history of this particular patch of land, we are transported to the present-day Kingdom as sheriff Bruce – one of the titular “Kings” – escorts a young trespasser through the town and out the other side, allowing us to get a good look at the overall set-up and meet a few of the more prominent figures in the self-sustaining community along the way.
Kindt does a solid job of establishing the ethos of the Kingdom during this first issue, with a thinly (and occasionally not-so-thinly) veiled air of menace directed towards the outsider during his impromptu “tour”. It’s worth noting however that he doesn’t paint them as villains or anarchists, but rather as a group of people who are disillusioned with the outside world and who, for one reason or another, just want to be left alone.
As should also be expected by now, Kindt’s dialogue is a masterclass in understatement, with nary a syllable wasted as every exchange, no matter how slight, feels like it pushes the story forwards. Interestingly, the true direction of the series isn’t revealed until the final few pages, where several of the dangling plot threads are brought together sharply in a wholly unexpected way.
Seriously, if the chief purpose of an opening issue is to hook the reader and make them desperately want to find out more, then this is about as perfect an example of an opening issue as I can remember reading. Oh, and that’s before we even get started on the artwork. If we’re talking about perfection, I don’t think there’s an artist working today whose style would be a better fit for this story than Tyler Jenkins, whose scratchy, kinetic watercolours really help to underscore the washed-out, desolate nature of the Kingdom.
I’ve been a massive fan of Jenkins since he absolutely blew me away with his work alongside Ollie Masters on Snow Blind, unquestionably one of the best books of 2016, but it feels like his artwork has actually improved here, adding even more nuanced expression and depth to his seemingly chaotic brush-strokes. It’s an unconventional approach for sure, but Jenkins’ measured hand ensures everything stays controlled, particularly during the latter stages of the issue where the full scope of the series is emphatically unveiled.
Fascinating, gorgeously illustrated and beautifully executed, Grass Kings is a series that flat-out demands your attention. While this is definitely a patient, understated opening issue, Kindt and Jenkins are working together in perfect synergy here, creating an almost palpable level of excitement as this all-too-believable story is gradually revealed. Highest of recommendations for this one.
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