Here Be Monsters, the first Kickstarter project from Madius Comics, introduces the character of Griff Gristle. He’s a salty old sea-dog, suitably rough, ready and thick of beard, the type of veteran who has been there and seen it all. There’s danger of cliché here, but in the hands of Madius creators Jones and Sambrook, Griff rises above such tropes, and it is gradually revealed that he’s more than he seems; not all of his experiences have been entirely successful, nor without deep loss. In just one issue, the writers are able to create a mythology that surrounds him, makes him not only interesting, but vulnerable too.
The story will feel familiar to anyone who has seen John Carpenter’s The Fog, but again the writers play with our expectations, giving readers a fresh take on a traditional ghost story. While Griff rightly takes centre stage, those around him exist as more than means to further the plot or deliver exposition; they engage and interact with the protagonist, often offering conflicting views on the nature of corruption and the need to perform bad deeds for the right reasons. In this, it isn't only the water that’s deep.
Art duties on Here Be Monsters are performed by Rory Donald, who does an excellent job. He has a similar chunky style to Mike Mignola, lots of straight lines and sharp angles, but he brings the script to vivid life and uses shade wonderfully. Anyone who has wondered what the work of the Madius team would be like in colour (this reviewer included) need ponder no more; simply put, it's wonderful. Donald uses colours to great advantage, creating appropriate atmosphere to every scene, especially those set underwater. There's a stunning splash page giving a view above Griff’s boat that is so well-rendered that it almost looks to be in three dimensions. Like his writers, Donald is a clearly a talent to watch.
With several quality issues of Papercuts & Inkstains behind them, comic fans had faith in the Madius team and ensured this Kickstarter project was more than successfully funded. Their reward for that faith is a high-quality comic that epitomises the commitment and talent of the independent comic scene in the UK. It’s a glory to behold, a story that rises above any potential cliches, and remains entertaining throughout. With an epilogue that promises more to come, it's good to know that timbers will keep shivering as the voyages of Griff Gristle continue.
GRIFF GRISTLE: HERE BE MONSTERS / WRITER: ROBIN JONES, MIKE SAMBROOK / ARTIST: RORY DONALD / PUBLISHER: MADIUS COMICS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW