Updated: Mar 5, 2020
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?
Telika used to be part of the Resistance. Now, after rescuing Captain Lyla Gryffen, she's one half of their crew.
In an effort to get to Gryffen, Rosalind Hunter (who has some history with Gryffen), destroyed Telika's planet.
Though they know it's a trap, Gryffen goes to fix the planet, anyway. But they're going to need the help of their crew if they plan to make it out alive.
These two issues are action-packed! Ben Kahn & Bruno Hidalgo always strike a good rhythm with their storytelling, balancing action and plot and character development. Issues #5 & 6 are heavy on the action, though, making for a quick, yet highly enjoyable read.
Gryffen is typically filed with plenty of humor and action, which makes serious, philosophical moments like the one below hit harder. They resonate with you and linger, since you don't expect them.
Hand-in-hand with the action, the sound effects work seamlessly with the art. They're big and dynamic, enhancing each panel they appear in. Though I don't want to take credit away from Sal Cipriano, if they're his, the way they match the art style and are immersed amidst multiple elements in the art lead me to believe they're Hidalgo's.
Assuming that's the case, I really enjoyed Hidalgo's solution for sound coming from inside something.
Going back to the above, I appreciate that Bruno Hidalgo brings a lot of sound effects to the page with these two issues. It can sometimes take you out of the moment when half the sound effects are done by the artist, and the others are done by the letterer in a much different style.
Since we're talking about it, I want to reiterate that Cipriano's lettering style perfectly encapsulates the ordered chaos of Gryffen's tone. It's a little messy, a little handwriting-y and organic, but still very clean and easily readable.
Each issue catches the reader up on previous events. If you wanted to, you could start the series here. But why would you short-change yourself like that? Kick back, get the whole series. The issues are 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. That being said, it's so amazingly fun and over-the-top, it should be in the "WHAT WORKS" section above.
Each issue is only 15 pages, which is shorter than most comics (but at that price, it's a steal!)
With all the action, we lose a little bit of the characterization. The book focuses so hard on its titular character and how amazing they are, Dao and Telika (and others) feel very much like supporting cast members, there only to make Gryffen look even greater, and smarter, or just to build the device to help them succeed, then fade into the scenery once again. We get some moments where characters say or do something interesting, but even if they do have a motivation outside of bolstering or battling Gryffen, it's fairly one-dimensional. That being said, it's a miniseries of limited length, and the book is called "Gryffen," not "Gryffen and Their Crew," or anything indicative of an entourage-style cast vs. a solo one.
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 exclusively on Comixology!
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