(Patriot issue No. 1 of 4.)
To paraphrase Bruce Wayne's praise of Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, I believe in Jesse Grillo. I believe enough in the work I have seen from him and his comic book production company, Bleeding Ink Productions, that I helped fund Patriot, a four-issue miniseries he marketed on Kickstarter. Obviously, since I was funding a product that had not been completed, I was going on Grillo's past work and the premise of Patriot.
I was not disappointed with the results.
Patriot follows the story of the titular character after he discovers he has but weeks to live after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. He decides it is time to stop simply capturing and imprisoning his enemies only to see them escape and commit the same heinous crimes again and again. He decides it's time to put an end to their murderous activities...permanently. The plan does not go over well with his teen-aged son and is accepted with even less approval from his teammates in the Union of Superheroes.
The book overall is strong, especially from an independent with very little funding. Grillo handles the writing and does it capably. Jeff Slimmons' pencils and inks have a very pulpy feel to them (imagine some of the horror comics from the 40s and 50s) and Melissa Martin Ellis' colors complement the artwork perfectly. Together, it all has a very personal feel, not like many of today's comics, especially from Marvel, that feel as though they are generated by a computer graphics program.
The premise itself is interesting, especially with the "Death of the Family" story arc featuring the Joker currently taking place in the Batman titles. It has been said for years (decades) that Batman's strict adherence to his code of never taking a life has, in fact, cost hundreds if not thousands of lives. By allowing the Joker to live, Batman has indirectly caused the deaths of every victim who has been killed at the hands of the Clown Prince of Crime. The same can be said of Two-Face, the Penguin, et. al., but the Joker is easily the most diabolical and purely evil of Batman's Rogue's Gallery.
Patriot's bailiwick is unique in that his decision to turn to murder is a result of his own impending mortality. We've seen comics such as The Punisher that have been cut and dry from the very beginning: do evil and be killed, period. Patriot, based on the reactions of those around him when he reveals his plan, was very much in the mold of Superman -- a god-like being who chose to simply stop criminals and allow the proper authorities mete out justice. It is a familiar storyline with an added twist that provides the reader with a What Would I Do In That Situation? scenario.
Another unique aspect of the book is the lack of thought balloons and the third-party narrative the vast majority of comics employ. Not using thought balloons is becoming a topic amongst comic creators and fans on social media such as Twitter and while many believe the tried-and-true use of internal monologues should continue, not using them provides a more in-the-moment experience. It provides the reader an opportunity to consider for themselves what the characters could be thinking and what their motivation could be rather than having it spoon-fed to them.
As with any new comic, hero and villain names can be clunky and hard to process and Patriot is guilty of this in certain instances. However, if you take the names of heroes that have been around for decades such as Wonder Woman, Aqua Man, Spider Man, Mr. Fantastic, and the like, the names of the new heroes don't sound as awkward.
The other thing to consider is that Grillo is working mostly alone with a shoestring budget. The bigger the budget, the bigger the staff and the more people to assist with editing and to bounce ideas off of. Considering that Grillo has little name recognition among mainstream comics fans and the aforementioned next-to-nothing budget, Patriot, along with his other titles, should stand out as a triumph of David versus the Goliath of the Disney-owned Marvel and Warner Bros.-owned DC Comics. Grillo has talent and a strong portfolio; brands like Dark Horse, Radical, Vertigo, and others would be well-advised to grab him while his price is still low.
For more information on Bleeding Ink Productions or to check out its line of comics, visit them at their official website.