"Grey" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Loaded Barrel Studios
Written by Jared Barel and Jordan Barel
Illustrated by Jared Barel
Photographed by Alex Goz
2011, 120 Pages
When you get right down to it, a comic book is really just a series of pictures with captions. The images have nearly always been drawn, rarely photographed. When you think about it, comics consisting of still photographs instead of drawings tend to look ridiculous. That's not the case in Grey, the latest from the Barel brothers and Loaded Barrel Studios.
Grey is an alien story set in the podunk town of Bullard Valley. Some mysterious things start happening out in the fields that would make the cast of Signs uneasy. A local teenager goes missing. A cow is found skinned with surgeon-like precision. There's a giant crop circle. Something's going on out there and Police Chief Johnathan Mack aims to find out what.
The book has all the makings of a great Twilight Zone episode. You have your suspicions as to what's going on out in those fields, but you don't find out the specifics until the very end and by that point the twist knocks the wind right out of you. It's pretty clear that this is about aliens though. I mean, there's one right on the cover.
Grey is told from the point of view of Mack and he's a bit of a tortured character. He moved to Bullard Valley to get away from the big city and spend some time with his family. This was supposed to be the easy life, but instead he's got to deal with an alien invasion, some halfwit hunters, and he's coughing up blood. This was not what he signed up for, but he takes it in stride. He knows that he has to do what's right, despite the consequences.
As I alluded to earlier, Jared and Jordan Barel, along with photographer Alex Goz, have come up with an interesting way to illustrate this comic. Grey is basically a storyboard for a film. Each panel was originally an actual photograph by Goz, which was then doctored and drawn over by Jared. There's a nice peek into the process in the back of the trade. If you've seen films like Waking Life or A Scanner Darkly, you have an idea of what this might look like. Grey looks way better than those movies though. At first glance you can't tell that these were once still photos. They look like great drawings. Plus, this technique doesn't have that cheap look to it that some artists end up with when they take shortcuts in their work by using a pre-rendered background image instead of actually drawing it out. One thing to think of too is if they used actual pictures for the art in this book, what did they use for the shots of the aliens?
Grey is a well written alien invasion story that creeps up the suspense very subtly before driving everything home in a nice little UFO-shaped bow. It has an art style that I've never seen in comics, but it's one that clearly takes time and a lot of skill. It should also be noted that this is a self-published book and despite that, it's one of tremendous quality. The comic itself has a better look to it than I've seen from most of the trades from the big two publishers. Loaded Barrel Studios did not skimp on Grey at all and it shows.
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