Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Grimjack Too

Grimjack Omnibus Volume 2: written by John Ostrander; illustrated by Timothy Truman, Tom Sutton, and others (1985-86; this edition 2010): Serialized science fiction and fantasy really had their Golden Age in American comic books in the 1980's, with every publisher (including superhero-centric Marvel and DC) publishing multiple on-going and limited series. Grimjack came from the very science-fictiony First Comics, also then-home to Nexus, Mars, and American Flagg!, among many others. First is long dead, but Grimjack continues to be reprinted and has found new life at other publishers.

This omnibus collects 17 issues of the comic from the 1980's in a thick trade that's slightly smaller in page dimensions than a normal comic book. Grimjack follows the adventures of John Gaunt, the Grimjack of the title, as he battles a variety of threats to both himself and the pan-dimensional metropolis of Cynosure, where all dimensions meet. We do a bit less dimension-hopping in this second omnibus as instead the threats comes to Cynosure.

Gaunt's got the DNA of such conflicted heroes as the Man with No Name and Jonah Hex flowing through his veins. He's a gun for hire who nonetheless finds himself fighting for the common good on more than one occasion, either as a consequence of his employer's problems or as a consequence of his own partially submerged decency. While taking place in Grimjack's 'present,' the issues manage to fill in more of Gaunt's personal history as we go along.

Ostrander's writing is sharp and sympathetic. The science-fictional elements work for the most part, and there are clever riffs on such long-standing tropes as cloning, altered laws of physics, and machine intelligence. Because there are dimensions with wildly different physical laws, magic can also come into play in certain circumstances, though it's often no match for a good blaster in your hand.

Co-creator Timothy Truman's art is lovingly detailed and often unrelentingly grim and bloody, as befits the title character. Truman straddles the border between cartoonist and illustrator, with careful attention to linework and telling detail. His characters remain a bit stiff at times, but the overall effect is striking.

Once Truman leaves the book, Tom Sutton takes over with a slightly looser but no less gritty art job. Sutton does nice work as well, though his 'shattered glass' lay-outs can occasionally be difficult to follow. Overall, a fun piece of hard-boiled, dimension-hopping science fantasy, with enjoyable guest appearances from Nexus's Clonezone the Hilariator and Doug Rice's Dynamo Joe. Recommended.

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