The legend of the Grim Reaper can be traced back to the 1300s as a cloaked skeletal figure carrying a long scythe. Through the centuries, there have been various takes on the reaper legend both in movies (Meet Joe Black, Dead Like Me, Final Destination) and in the comics space (Kim Reaper, Sandman, Death Jr). Grim #1 tells the tale of grim reaper Jessica Harrow. She’s one of many reapers with an assigned job in the afterworld.
Jessica’s main task is transporting the newly deceased from the living world to the afterlife. But there’s one significant difference between Jessica and the poor unfortunate souls Jessica ferries off to their final resting place: they all know how they died, but Jessica has no memory of what happened to her. Writer Stephanie Phillips and artist Flaviano take us on a journey into the ultimate life and death experience to unravel the mystery behind what happened to Jessica Harrow.
Jessica Harrow makes for a strong but irritable character in Grim #1, whose straightforward and short-tempered nature makes her a humorous and layered character. You can tell there’s a lot more to her. But until we find out more about her origin, the first issue makes her seem like a woman who carries a giant chip on her shoulder. Although who could blame her? Being stuck in a repetitive boring job chauffeuring around the dead — not to mention being dead yourself — doesn’t exactly seem like fun.
As far as the story element of Grim #1 goes, the plot is haunting, funny, emotional, engaging, and holds a lot of potential for the series. Every character we encounter brings sheer energy to the story, making you look forward to seeing them again. The curiosity factor of wanting to know why Jessica can’t remember how she died is enough to keep readers coming back for more. In addition, there are awesome references to Blue Oyster Cult, the movie Ghost, and other death tropes that we’ve seen in numerous forms or fashions before.
The art and color work in Grim #1 go hand and hand. From the first set of panels, colorist Rico Renzi’s warm and vibrant color choice helps set the tone for the out-of-body experience that starts off the story with Bryan, the guy who dies during the book’s opening that leads to Jessica’s introduction. Next, Flaviano brings his strong detail and great use of facial expressions and character designs. And last but certainly not least is Tom Napolitano, who complements each page with his perfectly placed word bubbles that never take away or distract from the story or illustrations.
Ultimately, Grim #1 succeeds at everything it tries to accomplish. There are exciting and fresh characters, straightforward storytelling, and fantastic artwork with incredible letter and colorwork. Grim #1 could easily become an ongoing TV show for any current streaming company like Netflix or HBO. The cliffhanger will have many readers stoked to pick up the next book.
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