Thursday, February 02, 2023

Mudman, Vol. 1 by Paul Grist

This is nearly everything, but not quite everything. Mudman ran for six issues from Image in 2011-2013, and the first five of those issues were collected in Mudman, Vol. 1.

It's clearly a teen superhero comic, another one in the long line spawned by Spider-Man, and slightly more conventional than creator Paul Grist's previous superhero comic Jack Staff. I knew, going in, that there was just one collection, and assumed the series was dead, but I didn't realize there was one stray uncollected issue out there, taunting me.

Owen Craig is a teenager at the beginning of a new school term in Burnbridge-on-Sea, a sleepy English village that's probably in some specific part of the country (on the sea, obviously - I got that part - but I bet Grist has a county and rough location in mind, too). Some not-really-explained thing happens, in an abandoned "Scooby Doo" house out on the sea-side, and Owen gets fabulous mud-based powers!

Spoiler: mud-based powers are not actually all that fabulous.

As with Jack Staff, there's a lurking sense that Grist can't quite take all of this superhero stuff essentially seriously. Oh, he has a mysterious cool-looking figure who says cryptic things, has unknown powers, and radiates danger, and he's toned down the random splash pages that were so fun in Jack Staff. But this is still a comic about a teenage boy - a gawky, bullied, more-than-a-little goofy boy - who gets mud-based superpowers, and it's really hard to say, "Yeah! Mudman! Splat that bad guy!"

(It reminds me of my joke in college, when a group of friends were fake-creating a superteam. I came up with a guy called String Boy, who could control anything made out of string. Obviously pathetic: that was the point. The big deal was going to be that, several years in and probably as part of a big Crisis hoo-haw, String Boy would discover Cosmic Strings - an actual scientific theory, which I think I only broke as much as comics writers ever do - and bootstrapped himself up to Beyonder-level powers to Show Them All.)

This is not exactly an arc; Grist is following a much older comics model in which every issue is an actual separate story on its own. So we have five loosely connected, and consecutive, tales of Owen as he gets the powers of Mudman and starts to figure out what the hell their deal is. There are bank robbers, and that mysterious (ex-hero? world-class villain?) figure, and Owen's father, a local police detective. There is the new girl at school he has a crush on and a female figure who appears mostly in visions and may have died decades ago. There's a whole lot of complications that Grist didn't really get to do much with, because this ended in six issues, likely because the superhero audience was not as excited by a mud-based superhero as he hoped.

So this is fun, kind of a lower-key Jack Staff, and good for people who like that Paul Grist superhero stuff - I do, and I wish more people did - but it's also a decade old, not particularly successful when it came out, unfinished, and about a British kid whose power is to hurl balls of mud at people. C'est la vie.

No comments:

Post a Comment