Advance Review – Grass Kings #2 (BOOM! Studios)

Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Tyler Jenkins
Release Date: 12th April 2017

After a strong introductory issue, Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins’ Grass Kings eases into some subtle character development here, taking us on a meandering tour of the Kingdom and letting us to get to know its titular ‘royalty’ a little better. We have Ashur, very much stuck in his ways and utterly disinterested in the world outside of the Kingdom’s borders. Then there’s Sheriff Bruce, knocking back some beers with Shelley and remaining reluctant to intrude on the grief of his brother.  And finally we have Robert, the leader who is now forced to face his inner demons head-on after rescuing a poor, half-drowned girl out of the lake near his house – a girl who bears a striking resemblance to his dead daughter Rose.

Before all that though, it’s worth exalting the artwork of Tyler Jenkins one more time. Honestly, this book looks flat-out amazing, and while Jenkins’ blend of sketchy pencils and intermittent, expressive watercolours may not necessarily be to everyone’s tastes, it most definitely satisfies mine.  Jenkins keeps things loose and fluid throughout, eschewing detail in favour of expression and ‘feel’, and creating a striking visual aesthetic that’s like nothing else on the direct market today.

Without delving too deeply into spoilers, there’s one particular page in this issue that really resonated with me. It happens during the flashback sequence which sees Robert regaling the recovering girl with the story behind the downfall of his doomed marriage, and features the entire creative team working together in perfect synergy.  Kindt’s writing is both poignant and eloquent, Jenkins’ stripped-down, panel-free style is packed with understated expression, and the inventive lettering of Jim Campbell provides the cherry on the sundae, blocking out the words of Robert’s wife Amber with his own recollections of their relationship.  Simply beautiful storytelling.

Kindt’s track record of building a compelling mystery pretty much speaks for itself, and while we’re still very much in the formative stages of this story, it definitely feels like the measured pace being used so far is really going to pay off in the long run. Plus, for an issue almost entirely devoid of action, save for the final few panels, it’s a true testament to Kindt’s writing that the book never feels dull or sluggish.  The dialogue flows smoothly, the characters are well realised enough not to feel like mere archetypes, and the overarching threat – the Sheriff of nearby Cargill looking for any excuse to march in and shut the “Kingdom” down – gives the grounded story a real sense of urgency.

It’s definitely a slow burning start, and as such might not necessarily  be to everyone’s tastes, but Grass Kings has had me hooked from pretty much the very first page. This is the very essence of restrained storytelling, with nuanced character development and beautifully unconventional artwork coming together to transport us to a town that, while we may not quite want to live there, we certainly don’t mind spending a little time in.

Rating: 4.5/5.

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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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