Review – The Grot: The Story of the Swamp City Grifters (IDW Publishing)

The world as we know is coming to an end. People are penniless and resorting to crime. Those who were formerly well off are struggling to keep afloat in times of financial hardship. The elite rule the working and lower class with the dangling of a carrot and a swift, sharp beating with the stick. Ordinary people find themselves relying on deception to keep a shred of their independence.  If you aren’t swindling someone you best prepare to be swindled. Welcome to the world of The Grot.

Publisher: IDW Publishing
Story & Art: Pat Grant
Release Date: 15th July 2020

The Grot is the love child of Australian born writer and artist Pat Grant. You can feel his love for comics in every page. With a simplistic style and animated look, Pat often provides more details than you would expect in a comedy story. Backgrounds are filled to the brim and everyone is disgustingly gruesome in a plethora of different ways. I picked up this title due to its detail heavy cover and currently topical story. I assume you read my opener and some of your thoughts strayed to the Covid ridden world we currently dwell in. Fortunately for me this inst Oldham, its a  grim outlook for Australia.

The story starts with a prologue explaining the basic themes of the the story and setting the tone early. We meet brothers Penn and Lipton Wise who are embarking on a journey to Falter city to make it big. The world is currently devoid of electricity managing only on manpower. Here lies a creative flair that frequently surfaced in the story. In a world with no electricity, no internet or online banking the poor are exploited. In the Grot, people are mounted to pedal bikes generating power for a multitude of contraptions. Pat grant makes this a featured point in many panels be it Mad Max style roadsters or punk bands having groupies to power their act. Once again reinforcing the exploitation of people and the creativity of the populous. I mean, just take look at this Wacky Races themed page:

Lippy and Penn arrive and begin optimistically thinking ahead, each looking to reach out and search for opportunity in their preferred methods. Penn seeks an associate to be their guide thus introducing our red-headed hustler. You learn little about her but she is five steps ahead instead of the average three in this hustling city. Hundreds have flocked here, hoping to find copious amounts of algae to make enough money to hire other people to farm algae creating a vicious exploitation circle. For Lippy and Penn the future is in medicinal yogurt. As this is a review I wont discuss the grifts themselves as they are key to the plot and dissecting them would unravel the core story. I will say they are complicated and handled well. The note-taking panels provided do help unpack the story and help you keep up with every hoodwink.

As I mentioned earlier this is supposedly a comedy comic, but I’ll confess that the humour was entirely lost on me. Jokes about vaginas come as early as chapter one. Jokes delivered with such a straightforward, clear as day set-up that see them trying to land the punchline with all the grace and decorum of birthing farm equipment. What I say next goes for many ‘comedy’ mediums, but mostly comics. If you need to drop cheap vagina jokes into your script, it doesn’t make you funny, it makes you Amy Schumer. From there I honestly cannot recall any other attempts at humour that left a positive impression.

I reach to the end of the graphic novel with no small amount of confusion. I read this story twice and yet I cannot recall the humour. The story of the characters and the world holds up for sure, with some really intellectual decisions thrown into the mix of the inhabitants’ collective stupidity. I will praise Pat Grant for this very well realised concept but it didn’t bring me the joy id hoped based on the opinions I found online. “The Grot has the makings of a true Australian classic. As absurdly funny as it is disturbingly realistic.” — Shaun Tan, Author of The Arrival.

Did I read the same book? Was this book lost on me? Would this have been better without the forced humour?

The Grot is the starting point for a new series of stories. The storytelling, while long-winded and feeling far longer than the four chapters it actually was, held up well, supporting the landscape and central characters. The highlight, for me, was the watercolours from Fionn McCabe drenching every page in a thick layer of beautifully artistic grime. I feel the future could be bright for this series as it has a lot going for it. They do however need to cut the Schumer-esque dead weight dragging the flow and growth of the story down. Every time I felt for a character or enjoyed a scene I was dragged out of it by a jarring attemxpt at humour. Like I said, I may be the only reviewer who found this humour problematic, but for me it stripped award most of my enjoyment and left a sour taste. That said, read it yourself and please let me know what you thought.

The writer of this piece was: Mike Chandler
Mike Tweets from @mike_moans ‏

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