Grim Leaper #4
Writer Kurtis Wiebe has decided to end it, he’s finished, done, or at least his book Grim Leaper is; this fourth issue also the final one. The ending of a beloved series is always a bittersweet experience – the final is at once the most important or powerful chapter of the tale, one that shows you exactly why you loved it, and the marker on its grave that says ‘ This is gone forever, this loss is permanent’ – so I started this issue hesitantly, knowing that with the turn of each page I was lowering Leaper slowly into the dirt.
I find it somewhat fitting to mourn a comic that is so intrinsically about death - in a way i feel like this is mood i should have been in when reading Green Wake – but of course Leaper isn’t actually all that grim; in fact its really a love story on all of its many levels, it is just one that uses its many deaths as a medium to tell that tale metaphorically. This approach though raises a literal challenge for Grim that is rather unique: how does one climatically cap off a story in which the main characters die multiple times an issue? If death isn’t the end, then what will be?
Before we get to the end though there is much to discuss about both the beginning and middle of this month’s issue of Grim Leaper. The former is set four months ago – coincidentally right when the book itself began – in a seedy bar called Neon Knights, a scene that Aluisio C. Santos sets instantly with a stunning double splash page that depicts silently the hell that is dating (and also, I think, shows all of/ some of the people that Lou and Ella will become in later lives). You’re either with a partner, pestering people, striking out or sitting alone; no-one likes places like those, in real life or the movies.
What struck me most about this scene though was the way that it finally gave Ella the focus, dedicating some time to her perspective and personality. She has always been much easier to love than Lou and so needed the narration and attention less, but not giving her a showcase scene like this would have been a missed opportunity and besides who wouldn’t want to spend a little more time with Ella regardless of reason?
This is perhaps the saddest sequence that the book has delivered, but it is followed by the most joyous: back in the present day Lou and Ella begin to unwrap the gifts of their new old bodies, their second chance. They get to be themselves again and are ecstatic about it and we for them since who they are is two people in complete sync with one another, literal soul-mates. It should be sappy, it should be sentimental but the scene that they share together is simply perfect, perhaps because it does, like the comic containing it, come to an end so quickly; fantasy escapes often come crashing back to reality and life is often too short for lovers.
Thankfully death has never been an end in Grim Leaper, because then the story would have been a very short and very depressing one, in fact death has never really even been death, instead its been smartly used to represent a change in the characters. Lou has always been Lou on the inside, but like all of us he has attempted many times throughout his life to be someone else and the recurring resurrections have given him ground to do this literally: when he died drunk and mad at women he was reborn as a serial killer want to stalk them, he meets a girl he likes and wakes up in a serious relationship, he falls in love with her and comes to with pockets full of cash, on top of the world, when she shares the feeling and he feels safe with her he allows his true form to return (somehow…) and she does the same. It’s the charting of any ideal romance, there are just a few more murders and mangled bodies than usual along the way.
Of course all ideal romances end the same way, with what a lot of bachelors would refer to as the ‘real death’: marriage. Lou and Ella have had some fun together, but thus far it have been pretty safe (ironically), they’ve both had literally nothing to lose and layers of different personalities to hide behind if something did go wrong. Now though they are faced with taking the biggest gamble possible in life; committing to someone eternally, since not even death can part them.
It’s predictable yes, but the perfect ending in many ways; though as the great comedic beat at the end of the story proves marriage maybe the end of this mini but it isn’t the end of our lives, of our little deaths and of our large loves. There are still plenty of changes that this couple will go through, plenty of mistakes that they will make and plenty of powerful moments that they will endure; though we don’t need to see any of that because we know how the book ends: happily ever after.
“Endings are always bittersweet experiences”, I said…well maybe I was wrong; Grim Leaper‘s sure was sweet but it left not even a trace of bitter aftertaste in my mind. I won’t miss it because the story was so well finished, the ends all tied tight, however I will miss its like, its level of quality and the love that went into every page. Grim Leaper is a brutal, bloody and ultra-violent book but it is also one of the most beautiful that I have ever read. Santos’ style may not initially have been what I had imagined, the jokes may not be the funniest around nor the themes or characters the deepest and yet, perhaps this is just love speaking, it still seems one of the most perfect. Every line spoken and every line sketched feels flawless, like it is in just the right place to get just the right reaction from me, if nobody else. It’s too early to say what will end up being the best book of the year, but I would be surprised if Grim Leaper wasn’t my favorite.