After a long hiatus for personal reasons Paul Grist is back with this installment in his Mudman series. The unexpected is the pitfall of the creator-owned comic for both the reader and creator alike, but in Grists’s defense perhaps waiting is the best thing for us sometimes with the entertainments and media we consume. This is not a new thought as in recent years the comedian Patton Oswalt ranted about how fandom so rarely has to wait for anything anymore, as opposed to pre-internet days when the whispers of hopes of a new Star Wars or Batman movie would get the fires of fandom stoked. Even at my age, and thirty-six is not ancient by any means thank you very much, I forget that I did use to teeter on with friends about when the next supposed Alan Moore comic or Douglas Adams story might be coming (if at all). It’s not that I do not appreciate this new “information age,” not at all; rather, it is good to remind myself that there is nothing wrong with not knowing sometimes and that being surprised by something you thought would never be seen again resurfacing can provide you with a nice moment in your day—a sort of cheer-you-up. Case in point, Mudman.
For those who have not been following the series, Grist is not reinventing the wheel, rather Mudman is his love letter to the superheroes of youth—Spider-Man, Daredevil, and the like. Issue #6 picks up with our young hero learning with his mysterious mentor about the possible range of his powers, but there is a balance as we follow Owen (mudman) in a typical week in his life, feeling the stress of being a teen, a student, a son, and a possible hero with new found responsibilities that he may even not want. Grist’s strength in the series is his ability to convey the sense of trying to be a young adult, caught somewhere between late adolescence and early adulthood, and the wanting one has to be an individual during those important developmental years. He hits the subtle notes, such as a scene depicted where Owen is texting with his friend when he is supposed to be studying in the library, or showing the anxiety one feels about taking a test in school. These are the moments that give Grist’s interpretation of the superhero narrative a spark, that life, even when it is as mundane as going to school everyday and worrying about if a girl likes you, or if you are being a good friend, happens—that is what is relatable. Grist may model based on the post silver age comics, the super-science relatable Stan Lee/Jack Kirby/Steve Ditko “excelsior” Marvel heroes, but he has added the nuance of observation of life to it. There is nothing that is going to jump out at us in Mudman, at least it has not yet as we work through his “origins” phase, but when the danger happens (and a moment arises towards the end of this issue with Owen’s best friend being in the wrong place at the wrong time), it has a more startling effect than a mutant monster or alien threat ever could have. That plausibility is the real appeal, and it makes this issue and the series so far worth reading.