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Review: Mudman Vol. 1

A comic review article by: Logan Beaver

Superhero comics can be damned hard to get into. Which is ironic, really. Far, far more people interact with the most famous characters in the Marvel and DC universes through movies and TV than they do through the comics. Superheroes are inherently entertaining: you take one dude who can juggle skyscrapers, another dude who farts explosions and make them beat the crap out of each other for reasons. It should be foolproof, but barriers to entry are numerous. Mudman is one of the many new superhero books whose creators have learned from the triumphs and mistakes of the genre. 

 

 

Mudman is a great way to introduce non-comics readers not just to comics, but to superheroes. This comic is incredibly fun and charming. It's basically (to boil it down to a movie pitch) Spider-Man in England. Spider-Man became an icon because he was the relatable, fun superhero (or the relatable, tragic superhero, depending), and Grist uses a lot from it.

 

 

Mudman has every ingredient of a coming-of-age superhero story -- clever dialogue, a lost, confused protagonist, a wholesome family and loyal friends to round out the supporting characters. Even the school bully is lovable. Hell, even the criminal who shoots a kid in the first issue banters with his partner in a cute Russian accent. 

 

 

On top of all this, the comic is extremely well made. Grist's decision to not draw most of the backgrounds is at times distracting, but at it's best allows for some great images. Grist's thick black lines and simple cartooning, to an extent, remind me of minicomics and the youth culture that makes them, but also, along with Bill Crabtree's flat colors, evokes a bit of the goofiness of old Hanna-Barbara cartoons. Actually, I might be getting that from the comic as a whole, not just the cartooning, what with the Grist's sense of humor, the book's decidedly PG-13 nature, and the spooky old house full of mysteries. Even though there are far more differences between the two than there are similarities, Scooby-Doo was creeping around in the back of my mind as I read Mudman. Grist's art is grittier than the rounded, clean-lined Scooby Gang, and Crabtree's color palette is darker. It's a fun, wholesome capes book about youth with the feeling that some real danger is lying in wait. Which, again, reminds me of Spider-Man. 

 

 

But while Mudman would make a good introduction to comics, Mudman Vol. 1 is not. It's good for people who bought the singles and want something they can loan out, perhaps. I think that people who casually buy this book will assume that it, like most books, will have a proper beginning, middle, and end, and they will be disappointed. This book has no resolution whatsoever, nothing even vaguely resembling an ending. When Paul Grist said he wasn't writing for the trade, he meant it: the trade ends like every other issue of Mudman, with a cliffhanger leading up to a resolution. Those endings are fine for single issues of a comic, which are expected to be parts of a continuing story, but books are expected to be complete narratives, even when they are part of a series. I fear that not leaving readers with a satisfying conclusion will turn off readers who don't frequent comic shops, but maybe I'm underestimating their ability to know good comics storytelling when they read it. Hopefully, I'll be proven wrong. 

 


 

Since moving to South Korea, Logan Beaver has written plays, comics, and flash fiction (he did a lot of that before, mind you), gone on adventures and drank more on a Tuesday than is socially acceptable outside of college. He lives there with his girlfriend Collette, and his laptop Pornbot 5000. He is trying to learn how to speak Korean and draw, both of which are very hard. He thinks that, by learning and doing new things, people become something better than they once were, like Pokemon. If he were a Pokemon, he would be Snorlax, though he is generally unfamiliar with Pokemon beyond the original 151. 

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