What makes a great introduction to a superhero? There are many a response to such a question, but Paul Grist has chosen to answer this with one word: Mudman.
On a seaside town on the southwest coast of England, we are introduced to Owen Craig and his friend, Jack "Newt" Newton: two mischievous teenagers — on the eve before the new school term begins — who are spraying paint all over town. When the two kids break into a thought-to-be abandoned house on the beach, Owen is caught by a gang inhabiting the house and shot at while trying to escape. Thus begins the story of how Owen Craig becomes our new favorite superhero.
Paul Grist — who is both writer and artist — is creating a new character for fans of superhero comic fare and does so in a brilliant fashion. He is giving us a new superhero story without any of the pitfalls like 40+ years of backstory to sift through or a world full of other superheroes to use as a catalyst (i.e. Miles Morales). Here, we get new characters, a new universe and a new hero with what is definitely an original power set. And Grist does it all without the introductory foibles that could easily plague a first issue.
What is remarkably noteworthy about this title is that the reader is thrown into Owen Craig's world without an anchor. Craig's world does not begin where we come in, so Grist makes sure that the characters do not act as such. We get a character that feels real and a world that acts as if it has existed prior to issue #1. Grist's character introductions do not feel forced or expository, but as if these characters have known one another for years. The perfect example of that is in Owen's interactions with his friend, "Newt". The two have a great shorthand dynamic with one another. And rather than having Owen introduce his father and sister in first-person narration, Grist does so with his characters merely interacting. In the onslaught of #1s that came out of DC and Marvel recently, this is a welcome change.
Grist also shows a little love to superhero comics throughout the book. Owen makes a quick reference to the BatCave and his sister wears a Superman "S" shield sweatshirt. Little things like that add a nice touch. We know that DC exists in this universe and it makes it feel as if the story is more grounded. It's a nice touch.
The book is also quite funny! This is not a parody book — by any stretch — but Grist adds in quite a bit of tongue-in-cheek dialogue and the hilarious character dynamics between Owen and Newt.
Grist also peppers in quite a bit of mystery in this first issue. How does Owen turn into Mudman? Who was speaking in the opening monologue? Why was that costume there in the old Scooby-Doo house? Who is that girl?! The costume specifically has me questioning all sorts of things about the book. Is this a superhero tale like Peter Parker or Invincible, or is it more like Jaime Reyes (pre-New 52) (RIP Ted Kord)?
But what I genuinely love about this title was the art. It is fantastic! Grist's art has wonderful cartoony illustration while also looking like a product of 1960s pop art with its flat colors (courtesy of Bill Crabtree) and Grist's thick pencil lines. When paying homage to classic comics from the past, you cannot do better than the art in this book! Crabtree's flat colors compliment Grist's pencils in a way that makes the characters pop right off the page. While reminiscent of artists like Michael Allred and Darwyn Cooke, Grist's art truly stands on its own legs and manages to be his own style.
Grist and Crabtree are also pretty meticulous in the art. A good example of this is when Owen wakes up the morning after, you see his clothes subtly soaked in mud on the floor of his bedroom. It is the little things like that that make the book shine.
Mudman could very well end up being something spectacular. We don't yet know what this new superhero could do (other than let bullets go right through him and live) and we still don't know if this could end up being different from the other superhero books that are out there. All I do know is that I cannot wait to find out what happens in the next issue. And, given that Grist has said that he is writing this title for issues and not for the trade paperback, I will definitely be on board for this book for the foreseeable future.
Nick Boisson grew up on television, Woody Allen, video games, Hardy Boys mysteries and DC comic books, with the occasional Spider-Man issue thrown in for good measure. He currently roams the rainy streets of Miami, Florida, looking for a nice tie, a woman that gets him, and the windbreaker he lost when he was eight. He sometimes writes things down on Twitter at @nitroslick.