Grim Leaper #3
In my review of Debris, this week’s other book written by Kurtis J. Wiebe, I made reference to the fact that his works are usually rather dark and heavy in nature, using this and Green Wake as my examples. After some thought though I have begun to wonder whether or not the two comics are actually all that compatible. Whereas Wake is without a doubt a book about death Grim Leaper allows it’s reader a little more room to interpret; if they are pessimistic then they could continue the trend and focus on the fact that the characters are all killed once or twice an issue, an optimist though could instead see only the fact that they are re-born each time (and this issue I use the term literally given all of the bloody belly-button imagery). Though of course this approach also allows you to simply balance the two and see all sides of the story equally, a perfect solution; that second term though is not so simply solved.
The ambiguity of Green Wake’s mythology made a close reading something of a pre-requisite for each issue, the lighter titles like Debris and Panzerfaust on the other-hand play best when read rapidly, eyes racing from panel to panel to see what comes next. On the surface this is where Grim and Green have their greatest discrepancy; the concept of the leaper is perfectly phenominological – sex, love and death all come in quick succession – but I cannot help but read each issue intellectually. I’m starting to wonder now if maybe this is wrong, should i instead be reading it with my gut? The same stomach that it simultaneously fills with both fluttering butterflies and viscous bile? No. Certainly it still works both ways, but there is so much clever subtext in this comic that simply skimming it would be a shame, especially since this hidden stuff is the real blood and guts of the book.
In case you were wondering this isn’t going to be much of a review of the book, but more of an interpretation of it. I’ve raved plenty about the first two issues already and this one is just as incredible: funny, heartfelt, horrifically disgusting and deeply meaningful. So if it’s a recommendation that you are after then go read those reviews, buy the comics, come back and see if you agree with my cerebral read of the comic. Which will start now.
When the issue opens we see that Lou’s past is starting to catch up with him, his history becoming a burden, as the portraits depicting his different personalities come to life and hold him down, slowing his progression through the hallway. It’s harder now to start again, to find a clean slate but easier to relapse, to slip back into old habits, Ella slipping right back into his arms with ease. These are all signs and symptoms of a burgeoning maturity, of Lou reaching real adulthood and for every step forward he takes his relationship follows suit. Things between him and Ella escalate during this lifetime: gone are the shallow street-walk introductions and speedy trysts in sports cars, replaced instead with a long lunch date at the zoo.
This isn’t the only escalation that occurs though, the deaths that befall the couple also continue to get gorier and more complete with each issue of the comic. More importantly though is the fact that they are also no longer freak accidents or single injury’s, the pair are falling to pieces for one another and doing it all on purpose. They’re not simply stumbling into the next stage of their life anymore, they’re choosing to when to move on and exactly where too. In this way their trip to the zoo mirrors an engagement and their jump into the deepest of ends a marriage.
Reading it like this explains the intriguing final page twist of the issue; you’re always on your game around your guy or girlfriend, putting up facades and false personalities, but you can really be yourself with a wife or husband, for both better and worse. Certainly this honesty makes the relationship more meaningful, but it also makes it more dangerous. Dying as an avatar is easy, it hurts for a while but you get back up easy enough. Dying as yourself on the other hand? That’s permanent; you don’t get back up from that. Therefore it’s easy to take risks when you are temporary, but when you have only one life left to live the stakes can become suffocating, every second is an all in gamble. So while it now seems certain that Lou and Ella are soulmates it still remains to be seen whether or not they will be brave enough to maintain this vulnerability now that the veneer of safety has been removed.
That I care so much about the fate of this fictional, fractured couple is frankly a surprise. After perusing the previews before the first issue was released I assumed that Grim Leaper would be a good little indie book but not much more; now though it has evolved into something that I enjoy rambling about more than I do actually reading most other books; especially since the more thought that you pour into each issue the stronger the connection you have with the characters . So if you’re not reading Grim Leaper then you should be, and if you’re not reading it smartly then start again because either way you are missing out.