Written By: William Dickstein
Art By: Kamil Boettcher
Published By: Self Published
The Internet giveith, and the Internet takeith away. In the case of Ch05En: Grizz, the Internet is giving. This is the product of one self-published indie author (William Dickstein, who has an impressive catalogue of novellas on Amazon) taking to Reddit to find himself an artist because it was time his superhero universe expanded into the comic book medium.
On the whole, the effort was mostly worth it.
I love the world behind Ch05En: Grizz, which operates under the idea that everyone has the Ch05En gene burrowed away, and if it activates, you’re bound to come away with something special. The front matter promises anything from fame and wealth to outright superpowers, though Ch05En: Grizz is only interested in the latter.
As far as superheroes go, Ch05En: Grizz is a mix of stuff I haven’t seen before and X-Men. Grizz himself reminds me of Wolverine or Sabertooth, and Kush is sort of like Beast except an octopus and not a blue gorilla-person. Aviv acts as the standout (and my favorite of the main characters), with the ability to construct working weapons/gadgets on the fly and from seemingly harmless items.
He’d be a hellova good protagonist for a video game, now that I think about it.
The difference between the two series really is the world structure itself. In X-Men, mutants aren’t all that common and feared by the populace; in Ch05En, anyone can become a mutant under the right—or wrong—circumstances. It changes the tone of the whole comic book and the events within, and I really, really wish some of that had been more at the forefront.
Because when you break it down, Ch05En: Grizz is just a revenge story. And honestly, it isn’t the pinnacle of that narrative.
Grizz is a character suffering from tragedy. His Ch05En gene activated upon his brother’s death, prompting him to become a superhero for the government. Things go from bad to worse when his lover/fellow soldier is killed in battle. Fast forward, and he’s become fat, slow, and ready to be done with it all.
Until he gets a clue as to who killed the man he loved.
All of this is well and good, and given that the main plot takes place in a Fight Club styled arena filled with super-powered characters, it at least delivers on spectacle. But everything else is fairly by the books with your obligatory hints of a betrayer and eventual betrayal. You might not guess the big twist (I didn’t), but you’ll darn well know to expect one because that’s the kind of comic book this is.
Though to the comic’s credit, I did love the ending, especially the last few panels. It’s a bit abrupt, but it works.
Artistically, Ch05En: Grizz is god-damned wonderful. I love the art style so much, and other than maybe two or three panels here and there, it always delivers. The character designs are on point, the battles flow pretty well, and there’s a lot of great, distorted emotion in each of the characters’ faces.
Kamil Boettcher is super talented, and I can’t believe his skills were picked up via a Reddit advertisement. It’s crazy!
While all the characters look amazing, I can’t really extend that to their personalities. None of them are all that well developed, and there are points where they all have the exact same voice, making it hard to tell them apart. Everyone seems to hit the same level of snark and rage, and other than Aviv and a few choice moments for Grizz, they’re all kind of boring.
It’s a shame too, because Kush had a great design and a lot to work with based on that design alone. He could have been so much more than what he was.
I think a lot of these problems come down to the dialogue itself, which is strangely overwritten in parts. For example, at one point in the second issue, the characters need to make a quick escape. Grizz points to a door and says, “Come on, this way. Quick.” Given his backstory and how he looks/acts, I don’t know why he didn’t just say, “Come on” and leave it at that. A, “follow me” would also have sufficed.
The whole comic suffers from this. It’s not that the characters ever say something wrong or out of character, but they talk with too many words or with unnecessary clauses added on. They also go out of their way to not curse, which always came off as odd given Grizz’s ability to turn into a rage monster. Having him say, “crap…double crap…triple crap!” was just wrong.
Somewhere around the latter half of the last issue, Ch05En: Grizz hits on some amazing ideas that work so well with its world that I wish they had been the bulk of the entire series. William Dickstein has built so much promise into his core idea, and maybe that’s why I’ve come away a bit unsatisfied.
With so many superhero stories to choose from, I really want more than just super powers.