Grommets #1 Review: It's The Landing That Counts

Grommets #1 presents an exaggerated bildungsroman that lands one marvelous joke.

I think readers will be well served reading Grommets #1 with no expectations. Its solicit promises a lot of specific things and it certainly addresses all of the promised concepts, but I'd be more inclined to characterize it as Richard Linklater by way of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, which is to say it possesses an idiosyncratic perspective. Yes, it delivers on the coming-of-age story of two teenagers in mid-California during the mid-80s immersed in skater culture (with clear biographic inspiration) but serves that collection of very specific elements in a fashion that is entirely unique. The first issue strikes a truly unique tone in the marriage of script and art that is equal parts cartoonish and sincere to deliver some big laughs and surprising depths.

The story opens on a cherubic Rick (last name unmentioned) being dropped to his first day at a new high school in Sacramento by his father. Brett Parson's artwork communicates a wave of nostalgia with slightly exaggerated forms that capture the details of the era well and human figures in expressive fashion. It's a fun world to occupy and as soon as Rick arrives to school it becomes apparent just how varied Parson's work can be as he communicates dozens of personalities in a splash panel of the school population.

This introduction also serves to set the series' tone as Rick's arrival is met by a wave of comments picking at every imaginable insecurity. It's not true to life, but it's certainly true to the experience of life. Readers are in Rick's head as he goes about his day at school, bearing down to escape to a skatepark. 

That heightened reality filtered through memory is consistent throughout the rest of the issue. There's a purposefully cartoonish air surrounding these people and settings that makes for the often lewd humor of the era to land more softly. But it remains a world of consequence as the minor cruelties of high school are wont to remind them.

This tone is intrinsic to the issue's constant dance between moods of humor and darkness. There are moments of schtick, like a parade of exhausted high school teachers, but much of the humor comes naturally from the characters. A new friend prone to massive exaggeration is a source of charm for readers looking back with some perspective. 

His grandfather does the same, adding some raunchy humor to the mix, until the issue reminds readers that some dark jokes come from genuinely dark places. There's no question that the characters of this story face real risks; the series manages to never indulge potential dourness nor overplay its comedy. The line is balanced so that the everyday fears and fun of life in this setting seem earned. If this is Remender's memory of life growing up, he's communicating the emotions surrounding it very clearly.

Parson maintains a sense of momentum through every sequence ensuring that even if a moment may not land for a specific reader, their eyes will already be quickly rolling to the next. Even the most standard sequences, like a car ride conversation stretching five pages, is filled with animated panels and inventive layouts along with a few gags. When more exciting environs like the skatepark arrive, he unleashes a dazzling collection of details that will reward repeat readings.

As readers find themselves rushing along with Parson, they will eventually find themselves aligned with the issue's pièce-de-résistance, a climactic joke that I would not dare to spoil here. But it lands like a wonder and I can't wait to read it again.

Grommets #1 may not be what readers expected based upon their own relationship with aspects of the source material, but what it delivers at the end is something uniquely excellent. As I found myself laughing and fondly recalling the great flights and follies of adolescence, I found myself enjoying Grommets entirely on its own terms. This fictionalized account of growing up tells a story in a fashion that could only be accomplished in comics and has me very excited to see it explore both its characters and setting in the months to come.

Published by Image Comics

On May 29, 2024

Written by Rick Remender and Brian Posehn

Art by Brett Parson

Colors by Moreno Dinisio

Letters by Rus Wooton

Cover by Brett Parson and Moreno Dinisio