With new comics on hold for the foreseeable future, my colleague Tony Thornley and I decided to dive deep into our longboxes and collections to bring you a new Comicon feature we’re calling New To You Comics.
Tony and I have very different tastes in comics. He tends to drift toward the superhero and sci-fi genres, and I pretty much stick to horror, noir, and thrillers. Sometimes our paths cross, but we, like most readers, tend to stay in our lanes.
The challenge here is for me to introduce Tony to some titles he probably missed on first pass, and for Tony to hit me with some of the stuff he really likes that I haven’t read. All of the titles we will discuss will be brand new to one of us, and all are available on digital platforms. You should be able to access them even if your local shop is temporarily closed or out of stock.
This time around, Tony and I will be hitting up BOOM! Studios’ Grass Kings Volume 1 SC, by Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins. Here’s what BOOM! says about Grass Kings:
From The New York Times bestselling writer Matt Kindt and artist Tyler Jenkins comes the Eisner Award-nominated rural mystery series chronicling the tragic lives of the Grass Kings, three brothers and rulers of a self-sufficient trailer park kingdom – a fiefdom of the hopeless and lost seeking a promised land.
The Grass Kingdom is run by middle brother Robert, who has been grief-stricken since losing his daughter years ago. When a mysterious young woman flees to their community in search of safety, Robert takes her in. As her true identity comes to light, Robert must decide if his chance at atonement is worth risking the entire Kingdom.
Brendan Allen: There are a few great secessionist stories floating around, but Grass Kings has a little something else going for it. It’s got that Hatfield/McCoy animosity between the Grass Kingdom and the local townsfolk of Cargill, sure, but there’s a whole different level of tension when you throw in a decades old serial murder mystery that each side blames the other for.
Tony Thornley: Wow, this was quite the book! You warned me that this was going to be a tough read, but it really wasn’t. This was a hell of a crime book. Kindt is probably one of the best working writers right now when it comes to world building and that comes through strong in this story.
I think a lot of the problem writers have with world building is that after they create this vibrant setting is populating it with people you want to read about. That’s not the case here. These characters are just completely fascinating. And my gosh these issues are such a great example of Chekhov’s gun as a concept in fiction.
Brendan: Tyler Jenkins’ loose pencils and watercolors are dead brilliant. There’s a deceptively simple quality that’s equally suited to tender moments between a father and his young daughter and brutal battle scenes between the Grass Kingdom’s ragtag militia and the entire Cargill Sheriff’s Department.
Tony: His work reminded me a lot of Descender and Batman artist Dustin Nguyen. The pencil work is really delicate, and he relies a lot on the paint to tell the story. It’s just totally gorgeous. I love painted art and I don’t understand how comics in general are just discovering the magic that watercolors can bring to a page.
Brendan: That unique visual signature from this first arc carries into the second, even after Tyler’s wife Hilary Jenkins takes over on color. It’s striking and works so well that the Jenkins carried the same look and feel into their next project with Kindt, Black Badge.
Tony: I really like Robert, the “King”, as a lead too. He’s not an anti-hero or a villain as protagonist like you’d find in many stories like this. He’s a deeply broken man with noble goals and a tragic past. It’s fascinating. It’s interesting how much it reminds me of Briggsland from Dark Horse, yet the characters here are broken people just trying to get away and Briggsland is more about bad people taking advantage of their situation to get away with doing bad things.
Brendan: Yeah, Robert is a great character. Deeply flawed, as you mentioned, but his motivation is clearly rooted in the well being of his little unconventional family of misfits. When the shit hits the fan, he sobers up and rises to the position. His personal life is an absolute mess, but he’s a born leader who doesn’t let his personal demons interfere in the job that needs doing. Mostly.
And I definitely see the similarities between this one and Briggsland. I liked Briggsland for the couple arcs I read. I think what really sets Grass Kings apart from the Briggsland type secessionist stories is the motivation and leadership. It really seems like everyone in the Grass Kingdom really just wants to be left alone. It’s more “leave us to live in peace,” and less “armed militia doomsday prep biker gang.” The Kingdom never picked a fight with Cargill. Humbert brought that to them. They answered, sure, but what would you expect?
Brendan: All right, man. What’s your call? Are you going to pick up the next arc and see this thing through?
Tony: Yeah! Bare minimum, I need to get answers about the serial killer and Robert’s daughter! But really, it’s one of those that’s worth it for the art alone, but the story is just fantastic. Well worth sticking through.
Brendan: Ha! I knew you’d get sucked in. What’s up next on your end?
Tony: Hmmm, let me check… Ooooooooh, we’ve got a fun one! We’re going back to the Marvel Universe one more time before we take a long break from them. We’re going to take on our biggest story yet and one of the best stories to come from Marvel, period. We’re going to check out Captain America: The Winter Soldier by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting!
Grass Kings, Volume 1 SC, BOOM! Studios, 03 July 2019. Created by Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins. Written by Matt Kindt, illustrated by Tyler Jenkins, letters by Jim Campbell.
We’d like to ask, on behalf of our friends and colleagues that own and are employed by comic shops, that you first try to get these books at your local shop. This is a very uncertain time for owners, employees, and their families. Show some love for your community and friends by buying from your regular shop when possible and safe.
If your local comic store is temporarily closed, not offering safe curbside pick up or mail order, or is out of stock on this title, you can find a digital copy of Grass Kings Volume 1 on Comixology for $12.99 right here. It’s also included in the Comixology Unlimited subscription. TFAW has physical softcover copies here for $14.39 plus shipping. Amazon has the softcover here for $13.69 with free Prime shipping.