Grimjack

Grimjack Omnibus Volume 1: written by John Ostrander; illustrated by Tim Truman with John K. Snyder III and Len Elmore (1983-85; collected 2010): Science fiction — or at least science fantasy — maintained quite a presence in non-super-hero comic books of the 1980’s, especially at publishers other than DC and Marvel striving to find an audience of their own, preferably a more adult one. First Comics, original publisher of Grimjack, probably released more well-regarded science-fiction titles than anyone.

Created by John Ostrander and Tim Truman, Grimjack follows the adventures of hardboiled mercenary John “Grimjack” Gaunt in the “pandimensional” city of Cynosure, a nexus where all the dimensions meet and mingle. Cynosure is pretty much the most wretched hive of scum and villainy in the galaxy, allowing Grimjack plenty of opportunities to make money or die trying.

Grimjack’s most obvious comic-book antecedent is DC’s Jonah Hex, another scar-faced bounty hunter with an occasional heart of gold when it comes to certain clients. John Gaunt’s a lot more introspective than Hex, however, as his narration allows us to see — indeed, the narration places Gaunt more in the tradition of hardboiled detectives than hardboiled mercenaries.

Cynosure itself allows Ostrander and Truman to play with a variety of genres, thanks to the overlapping dimensions, putting Gaunt into everything from a tribute to Sergio Leone Westerns to a world of funny animals threatened by an invasion of killer rabbits. It’s a lot of fun, despite the fact that Truman — already a solid draftsman and detailed renderer of the human form — has always seemed to have an aversion to drawing human beings capable of smiling. So it goes.

The time when non-tie-in science-fiction comic books had a major presence at the comic-book store seems to have ended long ago; this is an enjoyable reminder of the decade when it seemed like the successful expansion of comic books into every mainstream genre was only a matter of time. Recommended.

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