By Daniel Vlasaty
Grass Kings is back with its second issue. If you read my review for issue #1, you’ll know that I loved it, and that I have high hopes for this book moving forward. I was excited to see this title come up on the review list and jumped at the opportunity to get back out to the Grass Kingdom. Second issues are tricky things, I think. These are the issues that really set the tone for a book, because first issues are all about hooking the reader. But second issues have to slow it down a bit and give readers something to latch onto. Usually second issues will take a step back and spend some time on character development. And that’s exactly what issue #2 of Grass Kings does.
Matt Kindt throws a lot of things at us in this issue, all of them playing up the characters and building on the mystery of this thing. There’s the sheriff who’s hot to “crack down” on the Grass Kingdom, and whatever little plan he’s hatched with Big Dan and Little Man. There’s Ashur and Pinball, who are young and bored, mostly, but for different reasons. There’s Grass Kingdom “Sheriff” Bruce, who seems reluctant to get too deep into his brother’s business, hoping that giving him enough time will fix everything. And then there’s Robert, the Kingdom’s absentee leader, dealing with his own issues of lose and grief, which become more prominent now that he’s found a girl who resembles his late-daughter half-drowned in the lake near his house.
There are a lot of things at work here, a lot of different storylines to manage, but Kindt appears to be handling them all with ease. The writing in Grass Kings is serious and leaning toward pitch-black, but it is also light and airy. There is dread and tension, but there isn’t much urgency to the story. It feels like a book that is just beginning to dig its feet into the dirt for the long-haul. Matt Kindt is going to tell us one hell of a story but he doesn’t seem to be in any rush to hit us with it all at once. He’s going to take his time and drag it out.
Now, this can work both ways. Slow, drawn-out stories are either good or they’re bad. They either work or they don’t. It’s still too early to tell which way Grass Kings is going to fall on this line, but I’m not too worried about it. I have faith in Matt Kindt and his ability to tell a damn good story.
Tyler Jenkins’ art, again, is great. You can really feel this book through its art. It’s moody and atmospheric and Jenkins’ watercolor work is some of the best I’ve seen in the medium. It fits the book perfectly. I really like the airy, open-endedness of it. Each page is a treat, capturing the tone and the feelings of the characters to a T. You can really feel Roberts desperation as he’s remembering the fights with his wife, as he’s retelling the story to the girl he rescued. The way the panels will slowly zoom in on innocuous things, like a deer through a window, or the moon. Or the unfinished feeling to the pages that are flashbacks to Robert’s failing marriage. These pages are washed-out and cluttered and overlapping, like real memories are after you’ve played them over and over in your head for years.
Grass Kings has a lot going for it: great, realistic characters, an interesting setting, mystery and conflict already built in, with more and more being added to it with every new page. And not to mention an excellent creative team. It’s a powerful book. It’s slow and dark and moody, like any good noir story. I’ve said this a lot this year, about a lot of the books I review, but I truly believe that this is one of the better comic books coming out right now. Maybe not the best, but pretty goddamn close.
Grass Kings #2