Thursday, January 5, 2017

Review: GRIP: The Strange World of Men #1


[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

STORY/ART: Gilbert Hernandez
COLORS: Pamela Rambo
LETTERS: John Costanza
COVER: Gilbert Hernandez with Lee Loughridge
32pp, Color, $2.50 U.S., $4.25 CAN (January 2002)

Part 1: “Grip of Fear”

Cartoonist and comix creator, Gibert Hernandez, is most famous for being one-half of Los. Bros. with his brother, Jaime Hernandez.  Together, they are the creators of the long-running comic book series, Love and Rockets (with their brother Mario sometimes contributing).

Most of Gilbert's work has been published by alternative comics publisher, Fantagraphics Books, but some of his output has been released by other entities.  One example is the 2002 five issue miniseries, Grip: The Strange World of Men, that was published by DC Comics under its Vertigo imprint.  Gilbert wrote and drew this miniseries with colors by Pamela Rambo and letters by John Costanza.

Grip: The Strange World of Men #1 (“Grip of Fear”) opens in an unnamed city on a busy sidewalk.  We meet a young man of Asian extraction (Chinese-American?) with a lipstick imprint of a kiss on his right cheek.  He does not know who he is, but in the suit he is wearing, he finds the state license of a Black man named “Clarence Gideon.”

The young man discovers that he has a strange aversion to institutions that might be able to help him, but he can visit the home of Clarence Gideon's wife.  Meeting Mrs. Gideon begins the slow process of discovering his past, but a man calling himself “Joe Hook” claims to know all.

I had long forgotten about Grip: The Strange World of Men, but during a recent re-organization and clean-up, I found that I had bought all five issue.  I can't remember why I had never gotten around to reading it (and many other comics books that I had apparently “squirreled” away).  I decided to read at least the first issue and review it... for those that might decide to discover it or rediscover it.  Dark Horse Comics collected Grip in a trade paperback last year.  Grip: The Strange World of Men, unlike many Vertigo, so-called creator-owned series, is entirely owned by Gilbert Hernandez.

Anyway, if Gilbert Hernandez were not credited as the writer-artist of Grip, I would not necessarily associate it with him, although it does resemble some of his other work.  Right now, I'm thinking of Gilbert's contributions to the early incarnation of the 1980s comic book, Mr. X.  Still, this has an odd quality; perhaps, it simply does not resemble Gilbert's recent work and that is what is throwing me off.  Grip is playful, even with the explicit depictions of violence.  It is hugely intriguing and looks like an alt-comix interpretation of one of those Alfred Hitchcock murder-mystery, suspense thrillers.  The difference is that Grip does not seem so intense.

I have long thought of Gilbert as being one of the best comic book writers in North America over the better part of four decades, with him often being the best.  Truthfully, he is a gift to American comic books, a unique voice in the wilderness of corporate products, media tie-ins, and genre dumpster comics.  Grip shows that he can be imaginative even on cruise control.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2016 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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