February 13, 2012

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Single Minded: Mudman #1 and #2

Mondays can be a rough day to get through.  Why not see what short-form comic you can read to brighten up your day with another adventure in being Single Minded?

Mudman #1 and #2
Written by Paul Grist
Illustrated by Paul Grist
Image Comics


Owen Craig probably could choose his nocturnal activities a bit better.  You'd think the son of a police officer would know better, but Owen is sneaking around with a friend (and graffiti tagger) at an old mansion that's long been abandoned--or has it?  Before he knows it, Owen's life is about to change forever as his life is endangered by a set of thieves with a gun--and one very special tract of land.  Whether he likes it or not, Own is now--the Mudman!

Paul Grist opens the book by talking about the fact that he is an unabashed classic superheroes fan and this book is a classic, old-school superhero comic book.  He's writing it to be read in single issues, with twists and turns designed to read best when read singly, the way Stan and Steve and Jack and Carmine and all the others of the 1960s did it.  Mudman is a book that revels in its medium, and that shows from the cover right on through the first two issues of the comic, which cover the origin of Mudman while leaving plenty of secrets to be revealed as time goes on.

The story follows a familiar arc, but that's part of the point.  This is a comic written for fans of the genre and isn't trying to break new ground.  Owen isn't the perfect kid, being slightly rebellious and prone to getting into trouble.  His father is a noble cop who probably will meet a tragic end.  The villains of the piece are played for comic relief, though they can be dark when needed.  As we watch Owen discover his powers, we can think of the other origin stories we've read and look for little homages (the car scene definitely evokes a classic moment in young Peter Parker's life).  The difference here is that Owen, far more self-aware than his predecessors, is able to act more quickly.  His is the cocky arrogance of a modern teen, not the cowed figure of an earlier time.  One of the areas that Grist can explore to really move this book in a different direction from its antecedents is to show how this arrogance changes the dynamic of a young hero.

I fear that my description of this being a comic that echoes the older ways of creating superheroes might lead people to believe it's not worthy of reading.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  My point is that Grist gets what makes the comics of the 1960s so compelling, even today, is their ability to hook the reader quickly, give them interesting characters and plots, and keep the action moving from issue to issue, with no major worries about how it will look in the trade.  Grist knows that a good superhero comic should be *fun.*  While stories with angst and difficult shades of morality have their place, we see them far too often now.  Mudman may read like it is from a different era, but that makes it refreshing, especially to long-time comics fans, which I think is the target audience.

Though I did enjoy the storyline and the promise of a robot in the next issue(!), the best part of Mudman is definitely Grist's artwork.  The dynamic cover above is just a small hint of the great panel layouts that await you in the first two issues of Mudman.  Illustrating his own material, Grist spares no opportunity to be innovative with his layouts, playing with everything from panel structure to the placement of world balloons.  I loved going from page to page to see how Grist visualized this world and its dynamic new hero.  Grist's style is rough and somewhat angular, which again evokes a feeling of older comics.  There's so much energy going on, even in the simplest of panels.

Mudman isn't going to be the world's most popular comic, and that's okay.  It's a comic written almost as a love letter to comic fans of longstanding, and works brilliantly I'm so happy this comic exists, and I can't wait to read more of it soon.  If you like your heroics old-style, what are you waiting for?  Sink into Mudman now.  You'll be glad you did!