If I had to sum up Paul Grist’s superhero comics in one word, it would probably be, “fun.” Both “Mudman” and his previous series “Jack Staff” have managed to balance drama, adventure, and a sense of wonder in a manner that few can handle. With a brief hiatus now over, “Mudman” #6 dives back into the action and once again manages to deliver on all counts.
One of the things I appreciate about “Mudman” #6 (and the series in general) is how even though it’s picked up where “Mudman” #5 left off, it’s just as easily someone’s first issue. As Captain Gull trains Craig in using his mud powers, even though they’ve met before, there’s nothing you need to know that isn’t given to you within the context of the issue. In just a few panels, Grist is able to sum up their relationship and what’s going on, all without ever making it feel like an exposition dump. That’s a rare feat.
Perhaps more important, though, is that previous mentioned fun aspect. A training sequence has been done to death, but it’s much to Grist’s credit that it doesn’t feel tired or repetitive. It helps that having a hero with mud powers is a little out of the ordinary, but none the less Grist is doing all sorts of fun things with Craig’s abilities. There’s a dash of humor but also a serious undertone in this issue; with all of the comments about tests happening when you least expect it, there’s no doubt that Craig’s control over his powers as well as his becoming a true hero both need to happen rather quickly.
“Mudman” also finds the right mixture of super-powers and domestic drama. Craig and Newt’s friendship feels very relaxed and natural, and it makes sense that Craig would have shared his secret with Newt, because you get the real sense that they’ve got an actual bond. The fact that studying for tests at school is just as important to Craig as learning how to use his powers also feels natural; he is, after all, a high school student and Grist doesn’t lose sight of what Craig’s priorities would be. It’s just another reason why “Mudman” is so much fun; in many ways it reminds me of classic runs of comics like “Amazing Spider-Man” that understood just what it was like to be a teen.
Grist’s art looks lovely as ever. His clean, almost animation-quality figures look great, and Bill Crabtree’s colors just pop off of the page. I like the little touches along the way, like Craig’s arm getting larger when he starts yelling at Captain Gull, or how Craig holds up a couple of fingers when he’s trying to listen to the oncoming train while blindfolded. Even the lettering is fun, with the “splat shlop splot shlap” sequence being formed out of splatters of mud with the letters cut out of their centes. Best of all though is Grist’s understanding of pacing. When Craig has his confrontation with Gull, I love how he uses the gutter in the center of the page to serve as a literal gulf between Craig and Gull. And when we cut between Newt with the mysterious case and Craig trying to catch up with him, the beats between the two narratives pan out perfectly. Grist’s comic could be used as a textbook on how to lay out a comic page, it flows so well.
With some personal issues hopefully resolved, it’s great to see “Mudman” back on the stands again. This is a comic that I absolutely adore, and with good reason; “Mudman” does everything right. If you haven’t read “Mudman” up until now, this is a perfect chance to fix that problem. Jump on board, although I’ll warn you right now: you’ll want to read more as soon as you’re done. It’s addictive.