- It's the first day back at school for Owen Craig, and it's not going too well. He's been run over, got detention, and his police officer father has been taken prisoner by armed bank robbers. And now his body seems to be turning to mud...!
- Collects Mudman #1-5.
I should start by saying I am a HUGE fan of Paul Grist.
His work is perfect for someone who is growing tired of or jaded with a genre, because the minimal style he renders his stories with assumes that you have read enough comics to fill in the details. Grist doesn't waste a line, a splash of color, or a turn of phrase.
Grist knows enough tricks and narrative hacks to tell a lot of story using very little. That kind of efficiency is much harder than it looks.
Grist shows off his mastery of the form by leaving stuff out, not by overwhelming the reader with detail. The mastery is evident because there is almost no sense of confusion reading a Paul Grist book, except where he is enacting a character's point of disorientation or mystery on purpose.
After the success of his expansive world-building Jack Staff superhero series, Grist returned to the genre for Mud Man, which feels more grounded in classic friendly neighborhood superheroics that stays in one place. The exploration here is more personal. The teen protagonist is still deciding who he will be after stumbling into his super powers.
I don't remember buying this book, but I recently found it while going through things in storage. I couldn't remember ever reading it, so I assumed it to be inferior to his other work. But I decided to reread it anyway.
It was amazing.
Grist plays with the teen everyman genre, and while it feels evocative of Lee/Ditko Spider-Man, his lovable and mildly rebellious protagonist also has hints of Batman Beyond's Terry Mcginnis. Grist lovingly plays with the tropes of teen hero comics, while subverting them at the same time. His matter-of-fact, slice-of-life style forgoes titillation in favor of relatability. Like a true cartoonist, he offers shorthand notes of superhero moments and trusts the reader to fill in details with their own imaginations.
If you need high detail splash pages, femme fatales with lip gloss popping, and med-school-grade anatomy, chances are you will not like Mud Man, or any Paul Grist books, for that matter.
But if you don't mind seasoning your own food (so to speak), and you want a fresh take on a well-tread superhero genre, Mud Man will probably make you smile.
My only disappointment is that there doesn't appear to be a volume 2 available. Even so, Mud Man Volume 1 is a fun read, worthy of your time.
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