"Griff Gristle: Here Be Monsters" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Written by Rob Jones and Mike Sambrook
Illustrated by Rory Donald
2016, 36 Pages
Something evil is brewing in the waters near Charlsberg. People have disappeared. A strange fog hangs over it. The area is slowly dying. Griff Gristle knows what's going on and he's about to put a stop to it. He heads down into the deeps in an old-school diving suit to battle the dark forces at work.
Griff Gristle: Here Be Monsters has a very Mike Mignola vibe to it. That's definitely not a bad thing. The title character is like a nautical version of Lord Baltimore, setting out on his own to fight all kinds of supernatural creatures for the betterment of the world. Rory Donald's artwork also shares a similarity with that of Mignola's, with hard, craggly surfaces and light details. The colors instantly give you a feeling of foreboding, like something horrible is about to happen and it won't be easy to overcome.
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Joining Griff on this mission is Justine, the sister of one of Charlsberg's missing persons and the complete opposite of the man in every way. She's an intelligent woman, but rather annoying from the jump. She basically muscles her way onto Griff's boat and demands he take her with him out on this dangerous mission. Justine serves as the stand-in for the audience, giving Griff someone to explain things to instead of having an internal narration or speaking out loud to himself. That would have worked fine though, as he spends half the book speaking to his dead wife in his head.
Griff's background is mired in mystery, but it's clear that he's been doing this for ages. He knows what he's doing and he's built up an impressive array of tools to help him get the job done. The diving suit is essential and it looks awesome. It's an ancient one with a giant helmet and large gears around the joints, allowing him movement in the depths. A tube tethers him to the surface and allows him to breathe. The whole thing looks like a steampunk version of an Atlantis warrior, and it's pretty cool.
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The standout in Here Be Monsters is....well...the monsters. This starts out early with the fog, which features spectral visions of the deceased floating within it. It's so creepy to see the occasional skull appear in the mist, as it swirls around a boat, much to the dismay of its passengers. You don't actually see what the fog does when it reaches the people, but you hear it, allowing you to fill in your own gruesome details with your imagination. The fog returns again in force when Griff and Justine are out on the water in and impressive full-page spread. It surrounds the boat in a tornado of terror.
The climactic final battle has Griff facing off against a sea monster made of human skulls. That just might be the most metal sentence I've ever written in my entire life. There's only one great shot of it before it changes form, but damn is it frightening. Well done, Rory Donald.
This issue also includes an epilogue which sheds some light on Griff's wife and how she met her untimely end. It fills in more of both characters' backgrounds and explains many of Griff's actions. It also sets up the next story in such a great way. If you weren't hooked from the first adventure, those last few pages will seal the deal.
Griff Gristle: Here Be Monsters is a solid opening featuring a hardened warrior of the supernatural. If Quint from Jaws fought ghosts and demons, he'd be Griff Gristle. It will certainly have you second guessing that beach vacation this year.
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