Death Grub #1
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Ryan Ottley
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US
When I first glanced at this cover, the title did little to grab my attention. Mind you, there’s no cue that the hero depicted on the cover isn’t a “death grub;” rather, the title is derived from the cosmic threat that drives the plot forward. Still, the cover element that did pique my interest was the blurb on the bottom, proclaiming this to be a 24-hour comic crafted by Invincible artist Ryan Ottley. For those who don’t know, a 24-hour comic is one consisting of 20 or so pages that are written, illustrated and lettered in one period of 24 hours or less. They’re interesting experiments in the medium, and special 24-Hour Comic Days have been held on an annual basis at various comic shops the world over. Ottley’s crafted an entertaining, frenetic and even goofy sci-fi story during his 24 hours last fall. Viewed in comparison with other professional comics projects, one might think of Death Grub as being somewhat weak. However, when one considers the context of how this comic book was created, it’s a resounding success. The artist crafts a great sci-fi satire without relying much on words at all, conveying most of the information the reader needs with illustration and expression.
The planet Ooban is cursed, as every century, a massive Death Grub emerges from a neighboring world and descends to devour millions of innocent lives, and no one has been able to do anything about it… until now. A new hero, armed with drugs that will grant him temporary super-powers, has been trained to kill the Death Grub itself, and he’s been dispatched to await the ravenous creature’s hatching on a cold, alien world. Elsewhere, an invulnerable but lonely brute finds love in the company of a bloodthirsty she-monster, but little does he know that his twisted vision of happiness is about to be interrupted by forces beyond his knowledge.
Ottley’s work on this one-shot is understandably looser and sketchier in appearance than his previous Image Comics efforts, but the storytelling remains clear and effective. I’m actually reminded of Charlie (The Walking Dead) Adlard’s style here, given the rougher, gory and intense nature of the action. The backgrounds are a bit lacking. Given the timeframe of the creative process, that comes as no surprise, but it’s too bad there’s not a little more to engage the audience’s eyes. The cover, while conveying a key moment in the story, doesn’t really capture the spirit of the oddball, frenetic qualities of Ottley’s storytelling.
The hero’s use of injections to grant him the powers he needs to battle a cosmic carnivore is something I’ve seen once or twice before (I’m reminded of something similar from Brandon Graham’s King City), but it’s nevertheless striking, interesting and oddly amusing. The comedic beats of this unusual legend are a lot of fun; the writer/artist has hit upon the perfect pacing, no doubt aided by his extreme deadline.
What won me over, though, was the subplot about the dullard/warrior who couldn’t be killed. His delight at finding true “love” and his frustration at having it plucked from his grasp is perversely entertaining. The irony is that he covets a deadly threat and attacks his planet’s potential savior. It’s a deliciously Bizarro concept that works perfectly in this quick-paced, diverting comic book. I know this isn’t the first of Image’s 24-hour comics, and hopefully, they’ll publish other worthy forays into that experimental approach. 7/10