Grim Leaper #2
Grim Leaper, like its two lead characters, is speeding forward fearlessly into its future. It’s clear that this comic also has only a short time left to live, as of this moment two months, and so it too wastes no time on trivialities or trying to stay under the radar and instead races recklessly on, spitting in the face of safe. Wiebe and Santos, the pair behind the wheel, prove themselves here to be complete pro’s; executing pinpoint moves and precarious maneuvers that most would never dream of and delighting in the destruction of the crash when it eventuates. Though they don’t stop there, that’s only the first few pages; it’s only then that they jump behind the joystick and really pick up some speed.
For instance, this issue alone introduces and then kills off not one but two protagonists (Batman, i believe, took hundreds of issues to do the same), both of whom are distinct people with tales and tenors all their own. Certainly other books have been as brutal before but none have made it matter even half as much. These disposable characters are given a complexity that most other comics would crave in a conventional lead thanks to these genius single panels that pepper the book, each one deconstructing to tell a dense and daring story (Third on third, third on the fifth and hell, most of the others beside). You can’t help but look at what Wiebe can do in the space of a page and wonder what the hell other writers are doing with their time.
What’s most shocking about all of this though is the fact that it’s not simply a surface bound book, this isn’t a simply structured character study but a book with the highest of concepts and the deepest of metaphors. This complexity of character is only one of many layers on which the comic operates, though this as well as plot are perhaps two that are best experienced by reading the book rather than a review, so I suggest you do that though I will shy away from spoilers anyway. The layer that I am most interesting in discussing is perhaps the books most daring, the fact that it dare give a damn, that it actually tries to mean something.
In the simplest sense you could say that the two lives that our lead inhabits this issue ( alongside his own, the issue is a triptych of sorts) are indicative of the core of the comic itself: the first story is a viciously twisted affair and the second a touching vignette of adult love; the two main ingredients of the book are here made immiscible before our very eyes. There is however much more than that going on beneath the pages of this book, because Wiebe is in a way doing this very same thing for our lead character in a less than literal way, he is deconstructing the man into these separate psychologies and personas which are actually all pieces of a whole.
Last month we were given a mediation on what it means to be dating, on the look out for love, and here we see what happens when you find it: the fear, self-doubt and stunning realizations that come along with an adult relationship. Ella and Lou, the Leapers, are racing forward in their relationship; they’re officially lovers now, connected, and so their deaths weave around each other both literally and metaphorically as their different lives would were they normal people like us. Though not only are they dating but they’re doing it with real names and not behind the flimsy facade of a fake character; they’re through pretending to be anything but next to one another and that new proximity is having a powerful effect on Lou.
As he takes this and other steps forward in life Lou finds that death starts meaning more to him; since he is, like all young people, invincible he still doesn’t fear death directly but he does start thinking about what effects his curse causes in the lives of others, about the cost his personal changes have on other people. Because of course given the concept of the comic these changes are all corpse strewn calamities, the character dying again and again in gorily realistic reenactments of old Looney Toon reels, splattering not just puddles of blood but skin and sinew too. Aluisio C. Santos draws these particular panels with the kind of unflinching bravery that denotes either a medical degree or something much sinister hanging on his wall at home; I wonder what that basement was modeled on?
So there are some downsides to this whole dating thing it seems and as in real life this drive is not endless nor ideal. Sure it all seems sweet now but as the final page proves this isn’t exactly a healthy relationship despite the positive influence it is having on tis inhabitants; these two don’t really know each other, there is still such great risk buried within the reward and you have to wonder how things can go anywhere but down from here. Hinting at this is the way that while Lou begins his new life midway through the book: early on he is full of life and lines like Carpe Diem but very quickly he ends up sitting on the couch like many of us do, despite knowing full well that death is just around the corner. These grand ideas and good intentions that we beguile ourselves into believing tend only to be temporary and love is no exception.
I don’t, however, think for one second that this is true of the book itself because if anything this second issue is even stronger and more potent than its predecessor, a trend that I hope will continue next month. Sometimes you’ve just gotta think positive and forget those other possibilities, because you can’t think of all the things that could be around the bend and concentrate on the corner itself. Thankfully though that’s not really a worry here because readers of Grim Leaper are in the most capable of hands, I’d trust them with my life at this stage but mainly because they’ve already delivered one. This book about death evokes almost exactly every emotion that we experience in our own lives like no other book has before, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun besides. So here I sit at the mid-point of the series having a sort of mid-life crisis; how am I going to survive a month long wait for the next issue? Bring on the second half of the best book on shelves, some lives may well depend on it.c