Writer: Ben Kahn Art: Bruno Hidalgo Publisher: SBI Press
WHAT IS IT?
An anarchic, chaotic-neutral intergalactic romp. Mostly a comedy with some socio-political commentary sprinkled in.
It's a little like if Rick & Morty did a Star Wars spin-off. There's also a little Good Omens in there, at the heart of the book!
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
The brilliant and delightfully vulgar Lyla Gryffen and their crew, Dao and Telika, escaped imprisonment and are now free to roam the galaxy and "tear down society with irresponsibly disruptive science.”
Well, except for the fact that Admiral Hunter, who has a history with Gryffen, has an evil plan targeted at Telika and, in turn, Gryffen.
They know it's a trap, but they've got to go into it, anyway. Hopefully, Gryffen, Dao and Telika will be able to outsmart Admiral Hunter and live to create anarchy and do science another day!
Each issue catches the reader up on previous events, which is hugely appreciated for readers needing a refresher and catching each issue as it comes out.
I know some people hate the word, but Ben Kahn writes some fantastic banter that's so much fun to witness on the page. Lyla's delightful vulgarity especially makes for some fantastic belly-laugh moments.
This was something I touched on in the previous review, but Kahn's characterizations are distinct from each other. While the personalities all fit within Kahn's greater voice for the series, each feels unique and separate, which often isn't the case, even with very seasoned writers.
There's so much comedy in Gryffen, it's easy to miss the serious message underlying the story. Often, when there's a resistance and an "evil empire," you choose the side of the resistance. I loved the line, "Every idealist is just a fall from grace waiting to happen." It sets the tone for Gryffen's attitude toward both sides – they are run by people who are not to be trusted.
It is exquisite seeing the attention given to Gryffen's pronouns. More than just background color, but without derailing the greater narrative, it comes up a few times. I think the first time was in issue #2, when Telika mistakenly refers to Lyla as "her," and Dao, who knows Gryffen better, uses "they" or "them." In these issues, Gryffen corrects the Rojon, the resistance cat, on their preferred pronouns. It makes Gryffen's character feel like they have all the power in the scene while also reinforcing the importance of using someone's preferred pronouns.
Even though Cirpriano's sound effects aren't hand-drawn and incorporated into the art as Bruno Hidalgo's (and it's impossible for them to be unless he was also the illustrator), they do such a fantastic job of matching the tone of the comic, distilling the sci-fi and humorous elements into the perfect fonts. they work so well with the line art and colors to deliver those hard-hitting moments in a fun way.
While the SFX often go big, it's fun seeing the small, downplayed ones, like the cute effects given to the fish boy at the end of the comic. Sal knows you don't have to go big with sound effects for them to work.
It may be small, but I like how Cirpriano's speech bubble tails go behind panel borders to connect the balloons. It's subtle, but I like how the interact with the medium.
Bruno Hidalgo's aggressive-yet-cartoonish style works well with Gryffen's tone. It has that "Adult Swim" vibe, as mentioned before: edgy and fun. But it also captures a great deal of emotion and comedy in facial expressions and exaggerated, dramatic body language.
Each issue is only 99¢ on Comixology!
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
Cursing and visceral violence (often played for laughs) means it might not be the best read for kids.
There's also an oral sex gag (sans nudity), also played to hilarious result. Just, um, be aware of that if you're giving this comic to a young audience.
Each issue is only 15 pages, which is shorter than most comics (but at that price, it's a steal!)
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Gryffen is a hell of a ride, a humorous and action-packed adventure that feels like it could be its own Adult Swim TV show.
Ben Kahn is a remarkable writer, and one of the most talented indie writers in the business. They can balance good character storytelling with good story exposition, which is uncommon for many writers. Plus, comedy is hard, especially in comics, but Kahn has it down. Definitely keep an eye on their career over the next few years. I think we'll be seeing more and more from them.
Kahn and Hidalgo work extremely well together, as showcased here and in their comic, Heavenly Blues. Bruno Hidalgo's art style is realized, and you can feel that confidence transfer to the page. And Sal? On letters? The man's fantastic.
This is one anarchic space comedy you absolutely need to check out.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Heavenly Blues by Ben Kahn & Bruno Hidalgo
Wasted Space, Vol. 1 by Michael Moreci & Hayden Sherman
Void Trip by Ryan O'Sullivan & Plaid Klaus
If you like the art:
Shaman, Vol. 1 by Ben Kahn & Bruno Hidalgo
The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1 by Gerard Way & Gabriel Bá
Black Hammer, Vol. 1 by Jeff Lemire & Dean Ormston
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Ben Kahn – Writer
Has also written for video games and webcomics
Dream Team: Also worked with Bruno Hidalgo on the comics, Shaman & Heavenly Blues
Seems to enjoy the balance between humor and heartbreak
Bruno Hidalgo – Art & Colors
Had color assistance on this title from James Penafiel
Outlander: Hails from Barcelona, Spain
As of July 2017, he had never met Ben Kahn (not sure if they've met since then!)
Sal Cipriano – Letterer
Multitalented: Is also a designer and illustrator, and reviews action figures on YouTube
Most of his work has been for DC Comics
Big fan of wrestling
HOW DO I BUY IT?
Get it on Comixology!
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