Sunday, July 13, 2014

American McGee's Grimm (Comic)

Comic books, like fairytales, can also be a good source of amusement, with comics available in a wide variety of genres to appeal to readers with different tastes and interests. However, as their stories are told (and sometimes retold) over time, many genres have fallen into a number of clichés, which many comics can’t seem to get out of. If you are someone who thinks this needs to end, read on.

Following the success of the game American McGee’s Grimm from Spicy Horse, a five-issue comic book mini-series with the same name was launched by IDW Publishing as a way of continuing the series. Unlike the game on which this comic is based, I had actually read this comic as it was coming out, being one of the first non-Transformers comics I had read when starting to get into the medium (this was some time after my time with the Bionicle comic). Despite not having actually played the game beforehand, it was a comic I decided to read anyway due to my interest in said game. Having read the comic again after finally being able to play Grimm (I was originally going to review it shortly after the Akaneiro comic since both were based on American McGee properties, but the timing didn’t work out), I have to say I actually enjoyed it more than I did originally.

Having conquered all fairytales and remade them in his own image, Grimm wonders if there’s another form of storytelling that would require his abilities. He then eyes a comic book stand, deciding to take that for a spin. During the course of the mini-series, each issue tackles a different comic book genre, including superheroes (but primarily a Marvel/DC parody), romance, western, Japanese manga (but primarily Pokémon), and what seems to be a parody of the relatively-obscure comic book series Bone by Jeff Smith (I have not actually read Bone, but I’m aware of its existence), though the third and fourth issues also briefly touch upon the horror and space genres respectively in throwaway scenes. Each of the genres is presented such that they highlight the various clichés associated with them (the romance and western parodies I understood based on having seen movies from those genres); I wasn’t sure if the fourth issue in particular was using Pokémon tropes as an umbrella for the entirety of manga, but at least they got the point across about that particular series.

Pictured: How most superhero stories usually go.

Dwight L. MacPherson, the writer of the comic, does a good job of capturing the spirit of the games, including its sense of humor. Grimm’s actions over the course of the series seemed like something he would do, and I was able to not only hear Roger L. Jackson’s Grimm performance in my head (likely helped by me having just played the game), but a few times I had also thought about what some characters would sound like if they had actually been voiced by Jackson. MacPherson also makes good use of the Theater segments, which help the comic feel even more like an extension of the game. Another interesting thing about the comic is that we also get to see what life is like for Grimm ruling over the darkened fairytale world, fleshing it out and making it seem like more than just a copy of whatever the game did.

The art, by Grant Bond, who also drew the primary covers for the series, also helps with capturing the game in comic book form, with scenes in the darkened fairytale world and Theater segments accurately replicating the art style of the source material; at times during the Theater portions, I could also imagine what they might have been like in motion. When the comic focuses on Grimm invading and darkening the genres highlighted in each issue, Bond makes interesting use of two different art styles, with Grimm still in the style native to the original game, giving a good impression of just how out of place the titular evil dwarf is in each of the different settings. What also helps this is the different panel styles and page background colors used, with black pages and unique panel borders used for the fairytale world (with appropriate panel shapes used for Theater sections) and off-white pages with normal panel borders to showcase the comics that Grimm is messing around with. These artistic choices give the comic a unique feel that makes the experience more worthwhile and interesting to read.

The American McGee’s Grimm comic is one that I would wholly recommend to fans of the game. The writing and art for the comic help create a unique experience that really feels like an extension of the game and manages to do a good job of translating parts of the gameplay to a different medium. If this is a comic that interests you, I would suggest playing the game first (if you haven’t already) in order to get the most out of it, otherwise it can be found online in trade paperback form. Also, there is a reason the comic says it’s not recommended for readers under 13 years old, as it contains some mild swearing, though the imagery doesn’t really get as heavy as it can in the original game.

May all our stories end so well. Until next time!

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