The 1980's were an exciting time for the comics industry and for comics fans. Unfortunately, living as I did at the time in a succession of tiny western Pennsylvania towns without the benefit of comics shops and not possessing a car, a driver's license, or even a geeky friend who did, I missed out on a lot of it. That includes pretty much the entire publishing history of First Comics. I did come across an issue of Shatter at a bookstore on a rare visit to Erie's Millcreek Mall, but, frankly, I wasn't impressed. The story wasn't that great , and, let's be honest, the mid-80's was too early for a comic with computer generated art. (To see what can be done these days with a Wacom tablet and one hell of a lot of talent, check this out. Trust me, it's good stuff.) It wasn't until the mid-90's that I caught up with Jon Sable, Freelance or American Flagg. And I'm only just now beginning to read Grimjack. A few weeks ago, I picked up a bundle of the first 16 issues of the series at Half-Price Books, and I just got around to reading them a few days ago, but as soon as I was done, I headed back to HPB looking for more.
I've read very few Grimjack tales so far, so I'm probably not the most qualified to judge, but, in my opinion, the best Grimjack story I've read so far is not from the 80's, but was published just last year.
Grimjack: The Manx Cat was originally serialized online, then published as a six issue mini-series by IDW before being collected in the inevitable trade paperback. In other words, if you want to read this, it ain't hard to find.
Longtime Grimjack readers know what the Manx Cat of the title is, or at least they may think they do. The true nature of the object comprises the central mystery at the heart of the tale.
Those same longtime readers, especially if they remember the "Munden's Bar" story from the back of issue #5 which revealed the origin of Munden's watchlizard, Bob, may get a strong sense of deja vu from reading the first few pages of The Manx Cat #1. The new story, which takes place before the first issue of the original series, begins with Grimjack's heist of the Cat and rescue of Bob. From there, John Ostrander, rejoined here by Grimjack's co-creator and original artist Tim Truman, weaves a complex and compelling tale featuring double dealing, astral projection, time travel, reincarnation, ancient gods, and--this being Grimjack, after all--plenty of violence. Also on hand are many of the most significant supporting characters in John Gaunt's world, such as his old partner Roscoe, his best friend Blacjacmac, Goddess, Gordon the bartender, and, of course, Bob. Fans of Bob should be especially pleased with his role in the story.
By the way, if you compare the "Munden's Bar" origin of Bob story with the retelling of those same events in Manx Cat #1, you'll notice several differences in detail between the two accounts. For those who care, that's actually pretty easily explained. The older story has Bob falling asleep and dreaming of his pre-Munden's life. Thus, we can say the earlier version is how Bob remembers those events while the more recent version is, if not how things actually went down, at least how Grimjack remembers them.
As I said earlier, if you want to read this story, you have a few options. If you pick up the individual issues of the mini-series, however, you'll find something that's fairly rare in comic books these days: A Letters Column. I miss letters columns, and so, it seems, does editor Mike Gold, and I was glad Gold chose to include one here.