Grass Kings reaches its fourth issue this week, written by Matt Kindt and illustrated by Tyler Jenkins. Published by Boom! Studios, this story features a separatist community living “off the grid” in a fairly peaceable way but in an unsteady relationship with the antagonistic nearest town. When this “Grass Kingdom” is shaken up by renewed strife by sheltering a runaway from the nearest town, Cargill, elements of their history, and the history of violence in the region, are unearthed.
In this fourth issue, we’ve come a long way toward getting to know fragments of past history in the Kingdom, and particularly in the life of Robert, their leader who battles alcoholism and the trauma of the mysterious disappearance of his young daughter. He seems to have become more engaged with the world due to the appearance of the runaway, and wife of Cargill’s menacing Sheriff, named Maria, and in his conversations with her we learn more about the philosophy of the Grass Kingdom.
Robert seems aware how strange their philosophy is–to only take what you actually need and be happy with it. To modern readers, it’s far more of a fairy tale than we can really comprehend. It explains how an idyllic, if limited, community can exist and why they are both vulnerable and strong in different ways. They are vulnerable because no one else in the world believes what they believe–not really–so they will never be understood and left alone. Other people will always be suspicious of them and assume something is wrong with their way of life because it’s incomprehensible not to want more than you have.
They are strong, as we see in this issue, because they absolutely share a common belief system that’s predicated on needing each other. That means they are ready to display loyalty to a high degree, and protectiveness, even in the most threatening of circumstances. We have yet to see just how strong the inhabitants of the Grass Kingdom are, but we get a pretty good idea in this issue as menaces from the outer world begin to draw up the lines of battle. Perhaps they have “true freedom” as Maria suggests, and that itself is so threatening to the outside world that conflict is inevitable. But if they do have that, it also makes them very strong.
There’s something very simple about the Grass Kingdom and its inhabitants–and they want it that way. They’ve come from various unhappy circumstances, and we can only guess the stories behind their escape from the outer world, but what would you do if you have found your haven, and you are truly happy somewhere, and that happiness is threatened? The side-stories and variant covers for Grass Kings have been hinting and reminding us of the violence perpetrated on the same soil for centuries, and it’s actually a violence displayed by an invading force.
While Kindt and Jenkins have presented a multi-faceted view of the Kingdom and tried not to make the inhabitants appear too heroic, it may be time to see them as underdogs who have found something other people don’t have, and so must protect it. This issue really brings together the concepts in the comic in interesting ways and sets things up in a clear and decisive way for the future of Grass Kings.
Grass Kings #4 arrives in shops today, June 14th, from Boom! Studios.