Owen Craig is a normal teenage boy, depressed that summer is ending and the new term at school is ramping up. On one last night of mischief, Owen discovers that things up in that creepy old house on the hill aren’t exactly what they appear to be. Owen sees things, hears things, and decides to let it all go as the imaginings of an overworked teenage brain. Naturally, that leads to Owen taking the star turn as Mudman in this debut issue of Paul Grist’s new comic from Image.
Equal parts (early) Spider-Man, Sandman (Flint Marko), Clayface (your choice), Blue Beetle (Jaime Reyes), and Invincible, with delusions of grandeur and daydreams aplenty, this story is a breezy, fast-paced tale that does a nice job of balancing the mystery of Mudman with the everyday goings-on of Owen Craig’s mischievous evening and unfortunate first day back to school.
Grist writes Owen as an everyman. It’s not hard to relate to Owen, as the young man — in paying more attention to the new girl at school than to where he’s going — plows into the school bully, gets rescued by his best bud, dozes off in class, winds up receiving a detention (on the first day of school!) and then tries to do the right thing when it appears as though his dad needs help.
Through it all, the story is bouncy and fun. The dialog is lively and the characters are solidly defined. This book doesn’t overwhelm the reader with an onslaught of new characters, but simply introduces the leading character and his buddy. From there we meet Owen’s father and sister, as well as a couple of characters from Owen’s school. Grist doesn’t force anything here; it’s simple straightforward storytelling with a side of humanity.
Grist has almost as good a time drawing this issue as he does telling the story. Considering Grist is both writer and artist, it’s only natural that the pages are going to be a little more open and free, stressing fun instead of regimented panel constructs. Grist’s figures are simple, but extremely animated, with detail both implied and apparent. Some of the work may appear overly cartoony, but it works in keeping this comic book light-hearted, upbeat, and fun.
“Mudman” is a nice, innocent first issue, unhampered by reboots (or even boots for that matter), continuity, or long, drawn-out origin stories. It’s a nifty little change-up from the ongoing shuffle of superheroic comics, and gives just enough in this first issue to have us calling out for more.