With "Mudman" #5, Paul Grist closes out his first storyline (or at least the first group of issues scheduled to be reprinted in a collected edition). It's a relief see that even with the slightly longer-than-expected gap in the publishing schedule, it's easy to jump right into story both as a continuing reader, or even if I had been brand new to the series.
Grist is good at re-introducing characters; he's always been a poster child for the old adage that every issue is someone's first for the series. So while we're either told or reminded who each character is in reference to our lead Owen Craig, it's done in a natural and conversational way. As a returning reader I didn't feel like I was being slowed down or bored, though; Grist fits it into the overall story and it works quite well.
What's nice is that even as we meet all the characters again, Grist is both following archetypes of comic book supporting cast and also subverting them. Characters that might otherwise be long-term enemies are made into friends, while best friends are the ones getting irritated with Owen. There's even a great line where Owen's best friend Newt complains that he's supposed to be Jimmy Olsen while the (former) bully is supposed to be Flash Thompson. It's a nice nod to those who understand how these sort of stories play out even as he serves up something else.
Grist's earlier superhero book "Jack Staff" always came up with great super-powered characters, and "Mudman" follows that rule too. The latest addition to the cast, a woman with an axe who's been hunting the "mud rats" for years, doesn't even have a name yet and I'm already entranced by her. Grist's characters always are part of a much larger history that he's crafted for his titles, and "Mudman" is rapidly forming its own backstory that I want to see more of.
The art in "Mudman" is attractive as always. It's a smooth, open style that has a great line for the characters. I think that's in part why Grist's creations are always so inviting when they appear in a comic; they always look so great from both a design sense and also in terms of the finished product. They're just neat-looking, and having Bill Crabtree's colors popping off the page doesn't hurt matters. I also appreciate that something as simple as a small town street is carefully fleshed out in "Mudman" #5; from mismatched slats on a fence to little patches of grass, it makes the world of "Mudman" feel real.
"Mudman" #5 is a good enough book that I'll buy it a second time in a collected format, even as I'm unable to give up reading it issue-by-issue. Every new installment is a joy, and this one is no exception. If you never read comics like "Kane" or "Jack Staff" from Grist, you've been missing out. Don't make that mistake a third time. Head to your local store and buy all the "Mudman" you can. You'll thank me later.