Gryffen: Galaxy’s Most Wanted
Writer: Ben Kahn
Artist: Bruno Hidalgo
Color Assistance: James Peñafiel
Lettering: Sal Cipriano
Publisher: SBI Press
Price: $.99 an issue
Buy it here (you want to buy it).
Gryffen: Galaxy’s Most Wanted is a book about uprising. The methods used to rebel against a fascist regime, the morals of the person leading it all, and the personal, intellectual annihilation that brings someone to this point. The story follows Captain Gryffen, a non-binary radical who’s turned against the government they once fought for to burn it to the ground. Along for the ride are Telika, an ex-revolutionary trying to save her home planet, and Dao, a scientist jailed for his ethically questionable experiments.
It’s a 12-issue story, broken down into roughly three arcs, each one looping back into an overarching story, and the overall goal of overthrowing the fascist regime known as The Reach. It’s a near-undeniably good cause, but the same can’t be said for Gryffen and their crew’s methods, or at least I can’t say that with certainty right now. That’s the major appeal of this series: it’s unafraid to wade into these waters and ask you, the reader, what measures are acceptable in the name of revolution, with a spoonful of sugar in the form of Kahn’s sharp writing, and Hidalgo’s electric style.
Gryffen’s art is stylized and loose in a way that’s always reminded me of Genndy Tartakovsky and Samurai Jack. When the time calls, lines and colors become hyperbolic to exaggerate a scene’s – and a character’s – mood. At its height, these pages are dripping with anger and retribution, and when that’s not the case, Hidalgo’s sharp lines communicate a grungy sci-fi world with absolutely grungy people, all with blood on their hands.
The design of Gryffen evokes a galaxy ready to fall apart at the seams when it comes to both infrastructure and society. Smoke billows in between dirt covered, grimy buildings. Spaceships are big, oddly-shaped hunks that may look familiar at first glance, but are frequently littered with protrusions, and cables. Lots, and lots of cables. While the Captain often brings levity to situations, the setting is a constant reminder of how un-fun revolution is. It is dirty. It is grimy, and the tools are shoddy. It’s a struggle.
Encapsulating that struggle, for the reader and in the text, is Captain Gryffen. They’re dedicated, action-oriented, and an unstoppable force. It’s cathartic to watch Gryffen turn oppressive regimes into liberation movements, and literally punch nazis from space. Left there, Gryffen would tell one story, about a handful of people with power tipping the scales in favor of laborers. But examined, that catharsis reveals a story about what a person with overwhelming guilt looks like when they examine the damage left by their legacy, and feel a compulsive need to act on it.
To be clear: Gryffen was complicit in a galactic fascist regime, and, when we meet them, they’re being tried for desertion, after realizing the evils they’ve helped commit. They’re ready to make things right, and they’re ready to do it now.
So, on the flipside of what makes Gryffen an amazing character are their most glaring flaws. They’re opportunistic and near-impulsive when it comes to these movements; they tip the scales in the favor of the oppressed, spark revolution, and are quick to embark on the next mission. That’s not to mention the semi-regular bouts of narcissism from the Captain about their achievements. There’s this constant battle between helping the oppressed and notching the belt with another exclamation of ‘we did it!’ before jetting off. Gryffen seems to have made their bones with this, naming themselves a galactic arsonist, fully acknowledging the totally unknowable repercussions, and refusing to call their actions ‘good.’ In the end, that self-recognition doesn’t change the morality of what they’ve done. What it actually does is paint a picture of anarchism.
Now, if at first read this goes unnoticed, consider again the way that anarchist views are made out on Twitter; that platform is inundated with sarcastic ‘burn it all down’ takes. But Captain Gryffen is not sarcastic when they say burn it all down. Their rage may come off as a bit because of how we’re conditioned to read those statements as half-hearted and comedic, but in a few issues, it becomes clear how earnest they are. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hilarious, but in the way that when the laughter stops, the sounds of anarchy will take their place.
Gryffen: Galaxy’s Most Wanted is a story I’m still grappling with, and is already inspiring further reading. It’s witty and fresh, with characters that are immediately charming, and visuals that equal parts pop and rank. If franchise sci-fi doesn’t go hard enough for you, this comic is what you’re looking for.