GrimJack is one of those characters that I had a vague awareness of, but never really knew anything about, aside from the fact that he had a funny hat and a big sword. It wasn’t until I was listening to one of the SmodCast podcasts (I think it was either Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave or The Secret Stash) and Walt Flanagan started talking about how much he loved the book that I thought, “Hey, I should check that out.” To Sequential Swap I went and made a trade for the first two volumes of the 80s First Comics offering as reprinted by IDW.
If you’re unfamiliar with the character, GrimJack is an old soldier who now works as a kind of gun-for-hire helping people who need it. That alone is interesting as he’s essentially a Clint Eastwood character (Clint’s voice circa Dirt Harry was GrimJack’s voice as I read), but then you’ve got the book’s imaginative setting. GirmJack lives in a place called Cynosure which is a city that exists in a pan-dimensional city that touches different dimensions at various times. Because of this, there’s a lot of dirty dealings going on, dirty dealings that GrimJack sometimes runs afoul of.
This first collection is interesting because, in addition to intros by John Ostrander — a writer whose later work on Suicide Squad I like very much — Tim Truman and editor Mike Gold, there’s also a new wraparound story that introduces the reader to many of the characters who will show up in the series including GrimJack himself and his bar, Munden’s. This is interesting because the second volume has absolutely no extras.
Anyway, this book collects the short stories that originally appeared in the back of Starslayer and while they obviously share characters, they’re mostly one-and-dones which is good because they offer the reader the chance to get to know GrimJack by way of the things he does and doesn’t do. These tales really run the gamut, from the first one about a god who has abandoned his people and taken to drinking in a Cynosurian bar to sci-fi/fantasy story co-starring Starslayer. There’s also a vampire one and one where he goes to a world populated by adorable cartoony animals.
I’m a big fan of the variety found in this collection. In addition to the character stuff I talked about, it also gave Truman the chance to draw, well, pretty much everything. It also shows how crazy GrimJack’s world can be. While reading this collection, I kept thinking about how cool a movie, TV series or even video game series would be. There’s so much meat here that could be explored and exploited. With Eastwood probably too old to play the part, who would make a good GJ?
Soon enough, GrimJack proved popular enough to warrant his own series from First Comics, which wound up going for 81 issues. While still crossing all kinds of genre ground, these issues definitely carried over into one another a lot more. I’ve got no problem with this because, unlike a lot of stories these days, there’s no decompression at all as you’re constantly propelled forward either in the story itself or from one to the other. You also get to learn a lot more about GrimJack, his world and his past. He’s one of those characters like John Constantine where he’s got this big huge past filled with battles, friends and foes. The nice thing about reading from the beginning, though, is that you know what’s actually been on the page before and what’s new, unlike when I’ve read random Hellblazer trades.
After reading these two trades, I definitely see what Walt saw in these books and agree that it’s worth a read. I do have a bit of a problem, though. As I said above, the series wound up going for 81 issues, but there are only 8 volumes in this series from IDW which get up to #54. For whatever reason, they stopped making these books and switched over to the smaller omnibus format collections. It’s kind of annoying to not finish out one format and switch to the other, but I could adapt. The real problem is that those books seem to have stalled out too with the second omnibus hitting in 2011 and nothing else. I’m sure GrimJack collections aren’t exactly burning up the charts, but I do wish that companies would finish reprint projects like this once they start. I don’t know how it all breaks down, but it seems kind of crummy to promise a full run of a series and not follow through on it.