Wrasslers, Aliens, Talking Pugs, and an outer space prison break in fun, Memphis-based "Grumble #1"

Grumble: Memphis and Beyond the Infinite #1

Writer: Rafer Roberts, Artist/Cover: Mike Norton, Colorist: Marissa Louise, Letterer: Crank!

the way-cool retro-styled wrestling poster cover to "Grumble #1"

One of the few new coronavirus-era titles released the week of April 6, 2020 was a gem from Nashville-based Albatross Funny Books, taking place on a present day version of Earth where First Contact happened long ago, magic and inter-dimensional portals exist, and where aliens from many different races live alongside humans. There’s a human that’s been transformed into a talking pug, and others that are professional wrasslin’…ahem…wrestling stars, with punny names like the Elvis-influenced MemFist and the manbeast Nashvillain.

We get lots of real-world glimpses of Memphis landmarks and street scenes, with some make-believe businesses Like MemFist’s Square Cirle Bar & Grill. The word “Circle” in the restaurant name is misspelled several times in signage throughout the book, so it’s either a cute, quirky signmaking error that owner MemFist didn’t catch, or a production error that didn’t get caught multiple times by the publisher. Either way...quirky.

In this first issue, there’s no clue what the title of the book “Grumble” means, beyond a stretch of a wrestling reference, or also likely the obvious civil unrest. The cover set-up of a match between MemFist and the NashVillain seems to be purely symbolic, as they are working together to plan and lead a prison break offworld for someone we have yet to meet.

Through an interdimensional portal lies the staging area for an alien rebellion

The book is immediately very imaginative and visually entertaining, but drops us into the middle of a very confusing world, and a mysterious prison break mission we learn very little about.

The art and coloring are solid and a bit stylized, which fits the subject matter. The very informal handwritten upper and lower case font that has been created for all of the word balloons stands in stark visual contrast to the hard typesetting of the “Meanwhile…” captions. It might have been better if ALL the fonts were handwritten…the hard fonts were so distracting they took me out of the story.

It’ll be interesting to see if this story goes waaaay out there as the sub-title promises, beyond the offworld prison break. Will the wrestling poster imagery on the covers continue? Will MemFist and NashVillain ever square off? I hope so.

Grumble: Memphis and Beyond the Infinite #1 from Albatross Funny Books is available April 8, 2020.

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