Death is a natural part of life, and in fiction, death (or at least the personification of death) will often have a starring role. Sometimes, death isn’t just one person but an enterprise dedicated to getting souls to their final resting place, and that is the case in the universe of Grim, Vol. 1 and Vol 2. Written by Stephanie Phillips and illustrated by Flaviano, Grim is a journey through an imaginative, visually vibrant afterlife on a road paved with well-worn tropes.
At the dark heart of Grim is a reaper named Jessica Harrow. Most reapers are culled from humans who have died, but Jessica does not actually remember how she died or even what her life was before she became a reaper. As she begins to delve into her past, she soon finds herself hunted by her fellow reapers, but her reward is not going to be a peaceful journey to the great beyond.
Readers of dark fantasy and of the “chosen one” trope will find Jessica’s storyline familiar. She is apparently the only one who is capable of fixing what is broken in the natural order because of who or what she is. Vol. 1 has the moment when what Jessica thought she knew is upended, while Vol. 2 showcases her trying to stay one step ahead of the reapers pursuing her. While this basic element of the story is nothing new, Phillips does present some ideas that give it a fresh and vibrant coat of paint. Those familiar with Joseph Campbell and his hero’s journey might recognize Jessica’s companions and fellow reapers. Sardonic rocker Eddie provides the comic relief, while Marcel, the obvious straight man, serves as the group’s stalwart, brooding rock. What really stands out, however, is how Phillips reinterprets some notable entities like the Fates, making them colorful drag queens instead of cloaked hags..
They travel through a world that is beautifully rendered by Flaviano. The afterlife Jessica and her friends move through is full of shadowy stone arches and austere Gothic spires, scenery that is both alien and familiar. Even the scythes, the reaper’s traditional weapon, is given a visual upgrade that makes it look like it’s part of an ‘90s action figure’s accessories. Even the very pedestrian city of Las Vegas is bright and vibrant, a depiction befitting a city that is known for being a brightly colored jewel in a desert.
Grim doesn’t necessarily tell a new story, but it tells its very familiar story well. Fans of this book might have already enjoyed works by Patricia Briggs and Sarah J. Maas, or even YA fiction like that of Suzanne Collins. Its depiction of the afterlife puts it in dark fantasy territory, but Grim overall has the bones of a fantasy adventure.
Grim Vol. 1 and 2
By Stephanie Phillips
Art by Flaviano
BOOM! Studios, 2023
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9781684158829
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9781684159055
Publisher Age Rating: 16 years and up
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)