Story and Art by Josh Shockley with Letters and Edits by James Dufendach.
PLB Comics (based in Maryland) is bringing fan favorite character John the Swamp Dude out of the pages of their Halloween Specials into his own 48 page black and white one shot comic! Along with his best friend Zhub Zhub, JTSD is on the tail of the murderer of their mentor Mobie Graye. If you’re new to these characters the PLB crew has included a link to the first three parts of the JTSD saga FOR FREE on the front inside cover of this issue (and there’s a swanky sketch cover available too)!
***Disclaimer – I read this one-shot on its own without the context of JTSD in the Halloween Specials***
The book gets right to the gory details and horrific manner in which Mobie Graye has been murdered. The described scene ends with the knowledge that his head was jammed on fence post. That’s the first full on caption in the book. The book was prefaced as having graphic violence, strong language, and being intended for mature audiences. Kicking off the book with narration detailing a grisly murder and ending it with a shot of the main character crucified while said decapitated head on a stick is in the foreground of the shot certainly sets an adult tone. It’s actually a nice juxtaposition that’s created between the content and the art displaying it.
There’s a quick change of pace as, in a very comic book moment of luck, Zhub happens to be fishing in The Swamp of the Dead where JTSD had been strung up on the cross. Having pulled himself off the cross JTSD quickly found himself face to face with another threat in the dregs of the swamp water. Managing to get away he still needed some help. On cue, the buddy enters the scene and snags him with the hook on the end of pole. Pulling him out of the swamp we run into what, to me, felt like some forced lines from Zhub (this could be his character though as this is my first instance with him) that kind of pull away from the first few pages of set up. It is only a page but does its own job of setting up Zhub a bit. The book quickly moves to some exposition on Mobie Graye and the who, what, and why of this character’s importance to JTSD. In one page the book does a very good job of creating substance for Graye while also attaching him to our main character. Excellent page all around too as the narration overlays panels that have our murderer mirroring the description of Graye himself. After being helped and having his wounds treated JTSD and his best bud get back on the case. However, the funeral pyre for Mobie raises some questions. With an active investigation into the murder going on, even with the best of intentions why would one act so quickly to get rid of evidence? A curious case indeed as our would be heroes have trekked in search of a friend to try and decipher strange symbols found at the crime scene. While they find some help in the form of their drunken old friend sitting outside of a bar, the answers only beg more questions.
I will leave the tale here as the rest of the story involves some twists and turns with the reveal of our murderer. There’s more history to those involved that is given and the bigger picture surrounding JTSD is given even more color. Overall I enjoyed the story. I didn’t NEED the parts of JTSD’s story that came before in order to take this one-shot for what it is though it is clear that they would be helpful. There’s enough done to know and feel the relationship of the characters and the world they’re in. For me it does seem as though there’s more of this world planned and hopefully PLB will be able to do just that, explore this world more. There are some instances where panels jump, sequences could have used just a little stretching to capture the full intent, and continuity skips (like say blood from wounds not being in a panel or two but dripping quite clearly in others). None of this takes away from the book so much that I didn’t get out of it, a nice little tale from a character that has clearly been developed much more off page. I think though, that is the biggest draw back of the book. There are several occasions where past places, events, people are alluded too/mentioned that you either have to have past experience with the characters OR it’s part of the ‘there must be much more planned for this’ territory.
Thank you to Josh Shockley for the chance to check this book out!