New comic book series come with an astonishing and accelerated frequency week after week. While comics retailers have certainly been feeling a strain on their business in 2017, that hasn’t seemed to slow down publishers from flooding the market with new material. As someone whose taken it upon himself to follow comics to the point that I can credibly edit and write a comics based website; the sheer volume can feel daunting while my excitement wanes downward. It’s easy to start feeling jaded with the industry, even too much of a good thing is still too much. But when its something really new and exciting, when it feels like something truly excellent, you know it. The Gravediggers Union #1, by Wes Craig, Toby Cypress, Niko Guardia & Jared K Fletcher is one where that become apparent immediately; this is the good stuff, this is something special.
Gravediggers Union takes place in reality similar to ours, with the twist being that supernatural occurrences are treated as natural disasters, and the Gravediggers Union is in charge of taking care of them. But times are changing; “ghost storms”, zombie attacks & vampire outbreaks that used to occur on a weekly basis, have increased exponentially. Lead character Cole has been doing this for a long time, and he knows somethings not right. With his two longtime co-workers, Ortiz & Leroy, and a mysterious connection to his daughter; he’s ready to break the ultimate taboo in his profession to get some answers and set things right. Writer Wes Craig is prominently known as an artist for his work Deadly Class, and he’s been one of comics best cartoonist for the duration of that series existence. But Craig’s comics work didn’t begin there, and his talents go beyond purely illustration. As is evident from his own Black Hand Comics, Craig is wholly capable as a comics writer, and that’s readily apparent in Gravediggers Union #1. Craig’s writing is sharp and concise, he’s able to establish what’s important for the reader to understand the comic, and still create enough mystery to intrigue and leave you wanting more. He has a natural gift for characters and dialogue, and he brilliantly interweaves the books concept into a setting for a world that feels just close enough to our own for the books metaphor to hit in all the right ways. Craig is a comics artist that’s always been worth checking for in whatever he produces, but based on this fist issue, the same should be said for his writing as well. Not to be outdone, Craig also draws the first five pages on the comic for a strange prologue, and it’s perhaps the most mind blowing work he’s ever done as a comics artist.
Speaking of mind blowing artists always worth checking for, Toby Cypress has come back to monthly comics in a big way over the last month, and it’s a welcome return for one of the mediums most unique and gifted visual storytellers. In the comics epilogue, Craig writes that for the books art, he “was only going to ask for people who were right for the job” and there really was no other comics artist better suited for Gravediggers Union then Cypress. His quasi-abstract line work, and vibrant design style are a perfect match for a comic that trades in traditional horror themes as it’s central conceit. Cypress draws Gravediggers Union various monsters and monster hunters in a way that’s clearly recognizable, but completely his own. It’s a vibrant and exhilarating visual experience from start to finish, with the right amount of detail and flare for the comics creativity to fully flourish. Colorist Niko Guardia has an intuitive understanding for the comics complex visuals and dark thematics. He colors a consistent contrast from one panel to another that gives the art a unique flair, while establishing a consistent mood and style for the series throughout its debut. Guadia’s palette is wide ranging and eclectic, which is essential for a debut issue that transitions from multiple highly divergent settings. It’s a masterful application, that ends up bringing the story together swimmingly.
The Gravediggers Union #1 is a “only in comics” type of book in that, it’s the type of story that can only really be done justice with the medium. It’s wild, exciting, totally unique, highly entertaining, and pure fun. This isn’t just any new series debut, and it’s beyond any readers wildest expectations;this is purely comics in the best way possible. And that’s as good as it gets.