Grim Vol. 1Grim Vol. 1

Writing: Stephanie Phillips
Illustrated: Flaviano
Color: Rico Renzi
Lettering: Tom Napolitano
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Publication Date: January 2023

In Grim we are introduced to death via a car crash. A man wakes up, on the snow, having gone through a guardrail and now must contend with the realization that he did not live through the experience. Luckily, there’s a cool Reaper there to guide him through his journey into the afterlife. Jessica Harrow, along with her Reaper friends, ferry the dead through the river Styx to join the others in the waiting room of purgatory. Written by Stephanie Phillips and drawn by Flaviano, Grim deals with a central question to life (and afterlife) – who am I? 

When talking about the world of Grim in an interview with Comic Book Yeti, Stephanie said: “I’d like to think that GRIM makes death personal, whether you’re watching different souls react to reaching their final destinations, or learning about Jessica Harrow’s journey in the afterlife.” When people die in Grim they are ferried off into the afterlife, shepherded by Reapers. But the Reapers are also souls who have died and have now taken on this task in the afterlife. To bring the dead in and help them through, in a way. There are a lot of opportunities for this story. What is it like to work as a Reaper in a system where even in death you must work? Is it selfless? Is it part of the grand design to earn your way somewhere? Or repay what you’ve done in life? Interestingly, the Reapers don’t remember how they died. Jessica, along with her Reaper buds Eddie and Marcel, at some point have to know. But the only one that can access the files on how someone died is Death themself, and they’ve gone missing.

In a way, through living, being human is about trying to understand who you are and why you are. Some people receive comfort in large systems of mythology and history around this topic, the pursuit of faith and knowledge, and everything… and in Grim, that doesn’t stop with death. Jessica needs to know who she is, and why weird things are happening to only her. Death, who hasn’t been seen by any Reapers recently, has left their scythe behind. No one can use it… but Jessica can. “GRIM gives me the chance to flex a new muscle and build an entire mythology around death but still keeping the story very character-driven,” Stephanie says, in that same Comic Book Yeti interview. The world around Jessica and her sidekicks is built up, moment by moment, as they get thrown into deeper mysteries about who she is. The reader learns about the rules of death and what happens when you’re able to break them. Or, what happens when Death themselves leaves a vacant throne behind and disappears.

There’s a really great villain in Grim called The End. It’s a classic big-guy, Thanosian character that slides into the story and ratchets up the tension with each passing issue. The End is what you imagine when someone says the Grim Reaper, but a hundred feet tall, and scary big. The End floats over everyone and balances the scales of life and death. And The End is after Jessica because she is an imbalance in the system. She knows things she shouldn’t. She’s been to places no one is supposed to go, in a way, and for that she must be balanced. This kind of looming, all powerful, threat can be pretty hard to do, but the team pulls it off.

Grim Vol. 1

What we begin to see in Volume 1, which becomes more of a normal practice in later issues, are stand-alone introductions to certain elements of the story. This happens from the first issue with Jessica’s introduction, and again with an epilogue. But later issues take on stand-alone elements that slowly wind their way back to the main characters, which I think allows the themes and the characters to breathe a bit more. Some of the first issues feel like they either don’t contain enough story elements (lacking maybe a B or C storyline to fill in the world and plot along the way) or rush towards a cliff hanger moment. I think this is worked out in later issues, but by the end of Volume 1 there were times when I was ahead of the characters in what was happening, which caused the climaxes to fall a little flat. 

All is made up for though because, as we crash through issue 4 and 5, the scenes become wild with action and, crucial to Stephanie’s statement earlier, character-driven elements. There’s a moment in the 4th issue where Jessica saves someone from being hit by a bus and time stops, and the world goes gold, and what is left is just Jessica and the drunk woman she was trying to save from being hit by a bus that is just so well executed by Flaviano and colorist Rico Renzi. It feels like every issue, scene, and character that came before it clicks into place. The glowing scythes, the purgatory world, and the endless river Styx all add up to that moment. It’s fantastic.

Grim Vol. 1

By the end of the first volume, which collects issues 1 through 5, there are some big stakes. It’s time to face off with The End, and Jessica has found just the person, and the place, to do it. Grim Volume 1 is out now from BOOM! Studios, written by Stephanie Phillips, with art by Flaviano, color by Rico Renzi, and lettering by Tom Napolitano.

Verdict: BROWSE

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  1. I’ve really enjoyed Grim! I cosplayed Jessica at Megacon and it wasn’t really recognized but it was fun to do it.

  2. I finished reading it and asked myself if I would ever buy a second volume. I knew I wouldn’t, so it went in a pile to be donated to the library or resold. The art is gorgeous, but the story never clicked with me. It’s an interesting enough premise, but “flat” is a good word to describe it.

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