The Chicken Doesn’t Lie, But Lyla Gryffen Might: Gryffen #1 From SBI Press & ComiXology

by Rachel Bellwoar

You may have noticed Lyla Gryffen is holding some chicken on the cover of Gryffen #1. Even series writer, Ben Kahn, and artist, Bruno Hidalgo’s, names are dripping like the sauce on Lyla’s chicken. Everything you need to know about Lyla Gryffen can be summed up by their choice to pose with poultry, not a gun, on the cover of their series.

It’s not that Lyla’s opposed to violence (they make that abundantly clear) but the circumstances under which we meet them. Before the issue officially starts, Kahn provides us with some background on Lyla. A celebrated captain of the Sovereign Reach, until recently, they had been missing (which we’re told Star Wars crawl style, so it’s very nostalgic).

What follows is getting to see Lyla in person and how much they clash with their surroundings. The cover prepares you for Lyla being rambunctious, but this is a person who’s on trial yet somehow holding court. Everything about the courtroom, as designed by Hidalgo, is meant to squash them (the height of the judge’s bench – ridiculous) yet Lyla’s the one who comes across as being in control and immune to any judgement. The orange jumpsuit they’re wearing gives them the floor, not shame (James Penafiel assists Hidalgo on the colors), and if her accusers aren’t very rattled by Lyla’s outbursts, they’re not able to quell them, either.

Twists and turns abound in this first issue. Despite being dropped into the middle of their trial, you feel like you know what’s going on. The Sovereign Reach are fascists, Lyla’s figured them out, and is giving them a (very colorful) piece of their mind. The fascists part is true (at least if you believe Lyla) but that doesn’t mean you know what’s going on and every time you get overly presumptuous, Kahn knocks you on your butt in fabulous fashion.

Lyla doesn’t always have a plan, but they value details, which is where the chicken comes in, too. Throughout the issue, we see her put excessive emphasis on minor quibbles, like green jello. For the panel where she denounces green as the worst flavor letterer, Sal Cipriano, uses a speech bubble shaped like a tomato. It’s dramatic and flowery, but not exaggerated. Lyla’s deadly serious.

In these moments Lyla reminds me of Killing Eve’s Villanelle, but they’re not a villain (at least, probably not?). Lyla wants Sovereign Reach destroyed and thinks science is the key (and when you hear their argument, they make profound points) but first there’s the small matter of pulling a prison [space ship] break (did I forget to mention Gryffen’s in space?). I love the way Hidalgo and Penafiel color these scenes, like the alarm going off and everything turning red. At first, I thought this was really happening, but color in this series is more about ramping up tension or, occasionally, easing it off.

Lyla doesn’t dwell on their decisions, so there’s no looking back. Will Lyla be able to take down Sovereign Reach? Rome didn’t fall in the length of a comic book issue, but it did eat chicken and look bada**, and that’s Lyla Gryffen to a tee.

For a ten-page preview of Gryffen #1 be sure to pick up SBI Press‘ FCBD issue on May 4th. The full series will run on Comixology and, in the meantime, Kahn and Hidalgo have another series, Heavenly Blues, which is available from Scout Comics.

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