Review: Grimwood Crossing volumes 1 and 2 (Conner Bartel)

This week, in the aftermath of a successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year, we take a look at Conner Bartel and Atagun Ilhan’s horror western series, Grimwood Crossing. Is this a title deserving of its rooting-tooting success, or has it failed to win the draw with fans?

Publisher: Conner Bartel
Writer: Conner Bartel
Artist: Atagun Ilhan (Illustrator), Conner Bartel (Letterer)
Price: Funded on Kickstarter

Grimwood Crossing follows the going ons in the eponymous town as their Sheriff, along with his newly appointed deputy, investigate and battle many a supernatural problem which threatens this small town However, when a train coach arrives containing a horde of undead zombies and leads to the deaths of many townsfolk, the Sheriff notices a familiarity between this tragedy and one which took the life of his former deputy. Now, in the midst of protecting the town from regular crime and ensuring that the local Werewolf doesn’t become a problem, the Sheriff and his deputy must investigate who is responsible for this zombie-filled massacre and how it relates to this lawman’s last great failure.

Conner Bartel has produced a really entertaining and truly engrossing story with Grimwood Massacre. Bartel has infused his narrative with a good pace which, although not apparent to start with as the title feels slow, really kicks upon the initial zombie attack which forms the main catalyst for the story. Grimwood Crossing feels rather simplistic in its story despite the plot feeling a little more complex in the first half as we follow the Lawmen in finding their answers in a real noir fashion. That said, the enjoyment of the series is helped by the three-dimensional formation of the characters’ personalities, as almost all of whom seem well fleshed out and have some part to play in directing the larger narrative. The standout of these has to be the Deputy, Bobby, who feels like the true lead character by the end with the Sheriff coming across as more of a reader stand in despite his presumed importance throughout. Of course, Grimwood Crossing is not without its problems such as its abrupt ending implying that the story over ran. However, like this, these problems are not massive by any stretch and do little to impair enjoyment.

Meanwhile, artist Atagun Ilhan does an equally outstanding job of providing a visual style which perfectly fits with the story’s horror theme. Ilhan utilises a lot of wide panels throughout the series, which seems to help in regards to the story’s pacing. However, he also offers plenty of truly gorgeous single splash pages throughout the series, such the reveal of the ‘true’ Werewolf, the reveal of the zombies or a location shot during a key moment in Bobby’s personal growth which all look absolutely stunning. Of course, the artwork suffers from a similar problem to the story as it does appear rather cluttered at the beginning of the story and not improve until the metaphorical ‘culling’ of the zombie attack seemingly trims the fat and allows the space needed. Also, much of the finale comes across as less horror western and more ‘superheroic’, although this is indeed made up for by the final page and the gorgeous panoramic shot of the eponymous town.

While it isn’t without its problems, Grimwood Crossing is a seriously enjoyable comic with some tremendous writing and some eerily gorgeous visuals from beginning to end. Bartel, Ilhan and co. have produced a seriously captivating story here which, despite its sudden ending, is left in a good place to carry on should the desire be there. If you unlucky to miss out on the kickstarter when it was running, I implore you to check yourself out a copy as soon as is possible.