Writer: Rob Jones & Mike Sambrook Art: Rory Donald Publisher: Madius Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A sea-themed supernatural horror comic.
Imagine Moby Dick meets Supernatural.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Griff Gristle is a sailor who lost his wife, Betty, to the savage seas a long time ago, in what seems like a supernatural mystery. Since then, he fights evil off with his spear and magic.
Nearby, the seas are angry. It's said that the fog of the damned rolls out and engulfs sailors, and some ships are never seen again.
With the help of a young woman named Justine, Griff Gristle decides to investigate and see if he can put an end to the deadly haze. But Griff & Justine might just be in over their heads...
This adventure spirals into more, including terror on a cruise ship, a sea monster cult, and other supernatural entities who may just have ties to Griff's late wife.
There's a fun "Monster of the Week" aspect to the title that really works with Griff's spear-throwing and sailor magic to form a product that's a whole new experience.
However, Griff Gristle is more than just fighting monsters – there's also a thread of story throughout, and issue #3 (which is on Kickstarter as I write this!) ends the title's first story arc.
As the team gets into the swing of the story and develops their craft, each issue gets better and better. Every issue is more polished, more creative. It stands to reason, then, that issue #3 is the best in the series, especially as it wraps up the story's arc.
The book straddles the line between being serious and creepy and being comedic effectively (i.e. much better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine). There's a campiness to it, an aged spell-casting, spear-throwing salty dog named Griff Gristle and a young, blonde sidekick battling spirits and giant sea monsters, and that gives it a lot of its charm. But the dark and tragic undercurrent of the title will keep you coming back for more.
There are fun, little discoverable elements in Rory Donald's artwork. I'm pretty sure I saw the Holy Hand Grenade from Monty Python in a panel.
Rory Donald also uses (mostly) a limited color palette and colors that are often on the flatter side to give Griff Gristle its unique look. Sometimes, he'll play with gradients or darker shades, like in the image below, but it still fits in with the overall aesthetic.
A lot of his colors chosen for the limited palettes seem to be inspired by the ocean: the green of seaweed, the pink of a starfish, the deep grayish-blue of the sea at dusk. It really drives home the book's nautical themes.
The lettering is really well done, often working with the art to lead the eye through impressive splash pages or using more vibrant colors to stand out against the book's more desaturated tones.
The sound effects or fonts often feel inspired by classic horror movie poster typefaces, lending a kind of old school cool to the page.
I was also a big fan of the scene transitions at the top of the page. They're often a little tongue-in-cheek lead-in to the next part of the story.
Every issue of Griff Gristle immediately hooks you with action, and leaves you at the edge of your seat with cliffhangers.
I enjoyed the nicknames in the notes at the beginning of the 2nd issue, and think Rob Jones' is a Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back reference.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
Especially when the book is just starting out, it can be a little confusing to know which characters are main characters and which are tangential, since there are so many, and we meet a handful of them before even meeting Griff Gristle. I think changing the order or giving some kind of visual cue that this is our protagonist could help with that confusion. Doing something similar with Justine and Rich could also help tell readers, "Hey, this is a main character, not just someone passing through to color in the world, like those others!"
The series can be very dialogue heavy, which can slow down the action.
Some typos and grammatical issues throughout can take detail-oriented readers out of the moment at times, though these may have been found and resolved in updated editions.
Phone readers will want to switch to a physical copy or a tablet – the font can be difficult to read on your smaller devices.
We lose the organic feel from the coarse, hand-drawn panels from issue #1 in later issues, where they use straight lines, like below. That being said, the update makes it a little cleaner overall, so I don't mind too terribly much.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Griff Gristle is a lot of nautical-themed, supernatural fun. There's nothing else like it on shelves. Plus, the art! *chef's kiss*
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Tragic Tales of Horrere, Vol. 1 by various creators
Ramlock Investigates by Rob Jones, Mike Sambrook & Drew Bristow
Hellboy, Vol. 1 by Mike Mignola & John Byrne
If you like the art:
Resurrection Men, Vol. 1 by N.S. Paul & Rory Donald
Batman: Year One by Frank Miller & David Mazzucchelli
4 Kids Walk Into A Bank by Matthew Rosenberg & Tyler Boss
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Rob Jones – Writer
Outlander: Lives in the U.K.
Multitalented: Also works on a lot of comics as a letterer
Mike Sambrook – Writer
Dream Team: Work with Rob Jones and others often under the Madius Comics banner
Multitalented: Also edits comics
Rory Donald – Illustrator & Colorist
Outlander: Hails from Cornwall in the U.K.
Dream Team: Often works with Jones & Sambrook
Brad Holman – Logo & Design
Dream Team: Appears to be one of the pillars of Madius Comics, along with Rob Jones, Mike Sambrook, & Nick Gonzo
Chris Johnston – Editor
New Face: Doesn't seem to have a lot of high-profile comics experience prior to working on Griff Gristle
HOW DO I BUY IT?
Currently, the best ways to read it are to:
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