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Subj: Earth 2 #15.2 - Solomon Grundy, Reborn on a Monday...
Posted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 11:22:14 am EDT (Viewed 519 times)
I think by now I can lay my cards on the table and deliver a now firm disdain to the entire thinking behind the 'Villains Month' idea.
On one level it does lay out a solid narrative foundation for building on as you can showcase your premier villains and establish them in the audiences mind. But a months worth of books dedicated to a villain of choice could only hope to work if said villains not only have a broad appeal but actually have some depth to them and an intriguing motivation to do what they do. Statistically then that rules out at least 90% of the listed book coming out this month, and as a prime example of the folly of putting out a whopping 52 books devoted to this theme I present to you Solomon Grundy.
Reinvented by James Robinson as an elemental force of decay who threatened to destroy the entire world by his mere presence we knew him simply as Grundy, no connection to what came before with the murdered man who lay dead in Slaughter Swamp for a century before rising as an undead zombie-like brute. Well surprise, for this Villainous one-shot writer Matt Kindt returns Grundy to his Slaughter Swamp roots and the fact that he is based on the nursery rhyme. Quite how this is meant to tally with what Robinson presented to us is up to you as a reader to reconcile but opening up we watch as a fireball strikes somewhere in the deserted wastes of a desert and a figure crawls forth, Grundy has returned to earth.
Initial thoughts on this event unfolding was "Like How"? Grundy was removed from earth and sent to the lifeless Moon where his power was effectively neutralised, a neat solution to stopping an elemental force of decay, while there is a symmetry here to the original Golden-Age Solomon Grundy who also found himself exiled to the Moon only to return thanks to a convenient Comet(!) I would think we are owed a clear explanation here as to how he returned thus, given the perfect prison he was left in. The second point of contention I had is that this sequence of Grundy arriving back on earth takes up an entire four pages. Four pages of a fireball and Grundy crawling out... this utter lack of economy is representative of this issue however, things don't get any better believe me.
As an illiterate Grundy touches a cactus it disintegrates at his touch and we/he flash back to the year 1896 in Slaughter swamp, a man sings the Solomon Grundy rhyme to his newborn child while the mother is outside their modest shack of a house trying in vain to get something to grow in what passes for their garden. Clearly these two are in desperate times, working for a pittance at a slaughterhouse for an odious boss called Henry, but more than these briefly sketched out facts do not come forth. This is about as much about the couple we will learn, other than their unduly cruel fate and a possible figure seated on their porch that may be a live-in parent? The issue skips back and forth between the present with Grundy stumbling his way back to the populated areas and his past self's last day on earth back in 1896. The problem being that neither story is remotely interesting or indeed makes much sense...
We watch as the man who became Grundy sees his 'wife' stagger out of the office of his master in great distress, we are no told what the events therein were about but the inference is sexual, a strange situation if she is the only woman employed in the building and no one bats an eye at it. Her hysterics and flight are meant to be a shocking scene as we watch her in distress run out into the abattoir area where her 'husband' is working in a room full of other men but as she runs to a sluice channel and stabs herself in the throat before her husband it takes on an absurd air about it. Her body sliding down the channel into the swamp outside Boss Henry appears behind Solomon (Yes, that is indeed our man to be Grundy's real name) and coldly orders him to retrieve her body before the gators get scent of it, Solomon duly does so and returns to the shed as a maniac, stabbing boss Henry to death in a frenzy while repeating the Grundy nursery rhyme. He then turns his mania on his co-workers and despatches them too. Job done he moves to the sluice channel where he watched his wife take her own life and follows her example... his body sliding into the swamps depths to be forgotten.
Back at their home their child is now alone, as the body in the swamp begins its slow tranformation. Why did the Rot choose him in particular? We may never know.
Is a reader supposed to feel for Solomon? For his wife? Their tale is delivered in such basic and crude strokes there is nothing to latch on to other than the gratuitous pointlessness of it all, violence on this scale should have an impact but when shown as this one-dimensional it becomes meaningless. Would not the fact that Solomon and Wife go out to work each day at a job neither likes mean that like any other couple they only do it for their child, their family? Just like most people work is a means to an end, and no matter how desperate a place to work, or the brutal conditions, their child and purpose is what keeps them going. Quite what the pairs arrangement with Boss Henry was to allow the wife into his office is a mystery, but the results were wholly over the top and unbelievable.
As all of this takes place however in the present Grundy has lumbered his way to civilisation and is destroying the town he has found himself in. In tandem with the 1896 sequences he mumbles passages from the Solomon Grundy rhyme, indicating that these are indeed his own recollections we are reading about. Police use rocket launchers and are disintegrated as Grundy's exploding remains shower over them, but Grundy is unkillable, whatever attack is used he simply reforms, perpetually reborn. Screaming for the green man the situation is looking like a repeat of where we left off back in Earth 2 #5, an unstoppable force of nature having manifested to destroy the earth...
To be continued? Who knows. As an issue this is exactly what you might expect it to be given the character in question, Grundy as reinvented by James Robinson was a one dimensional force of entropy with no link to the more primal Solomon Grundy that came before. There was absolutely nothing to say about him and so I can see why Matt Kindt opted for a variation on his classic origin, by restoring elements of the characters past and his full name he can at least try to fill 20 pages of story with him as the focus. But the results are still extremely thin fare with no substance to it. Grundy is a stock Villain, like Desaad or Trigon he is pure evil and not even human, so the problems with creating a one off introductory story such as this are going to be considerable. Matt Kindt has a tougher job than most as this character is nothing more than a Golem, he exists for the heroes to beat up on and nothing more. Originally Grundy was a muscleman often used as a henchman for others but in this modern revamp he appears to be more driven and purposeful, time will tell what direction he takes from now on but it is a shame Kindt couldn't give us more of an idea of it right here.
On a more positive note though Aaron Lopresti is on art duties with the much under used Art Thibert inking over him, the results are impressively workmanlike and to some extent lift the threadbare script. Lopresti uses an effectively different and imaginative panel/page layout for the sequences set in Grundy's past while scenes set in the present utilise the more conventional panel layout grid, as a result the misery and desperation of Solomon's final day on earth is given real tension and power. As to Grundy himself... well, to an artist he's a lost cause. A vaguely humanoid cadaver with no distinguishing features and nothing to wear even. Originally Solomon Grundy wore tattered trousers and a shirt and coat, as a look it fitted with his origins and made sense given he would grab whatever clothes were at hand when the swamp regenerated him. James Robinson's revamp brought him back as quite a different character who wore vaguely fetishistic gear in line with Clive Barker's Pinhead, so here in this Earth 2 special issue Grundy now inhabits a middle ground between the two depictions. On the one hand I am glad to see this partial reversion to a more familiar Grundy, but his origins this time around differ slightly in that he is now presented as a victim in lifes drama coincidentally named Solomon, rather than the scoundrel and corrupt rogue that was Cyrus Gold who was given the Solomon Grundy name by chance.
As a story on the worth of Human nature you won't get anything positive or plausible out of this very forgettable issue, owing a strong debt to B-list slasher/horror movies it exists only to appeal to the lowest denominator. If there is anything in this book that qualifies as a message or moral then it completely eludes me.
2/10. The energetic art team of Lopresti & Thibert is the books saving grace.
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