Crowdfunding Review “Jawbreakers: Grand Bizarre” (Splatto Comics)
Welcome back to another Crowdfunding Review here at The Splintering.
Today, we’ll be taking a look at Jawbreakers: Grand Bizarre, which contains three separate stories by different creative teams. For those of you not familiar with our review format, we grade a crowdfunding campaign on four distinct categories:
- Book Content and Quality
- Communication and Fulfillment
- Packaging and Shipping
- Stretch Goals and Bonuses
No more talk! Move out!
Book Content and Quality
The title story of Grand Bizarre is a 50-page adventure written by Richard C. Meyer and features illustrations by Aaron Alfeche, and it acts as a prequel to the other Jawbreakers books released so far. The story largely follows Silkworm, who is between military contracting gigs, largely because of his delightfully dickish personality. He quickly gets a small redemptive moment, though, after he literally jumps into harms way to assist a unit in distress.
Silkworm finds himself in the Grand Bazaar, a mystical market where “nothing has a cost, but everything has a price.” As the mysteries of the bazaar unfold, Silkworm finds that he is not the only superhuman in attendance. It seems that Devildog is delivering an infamous terrorist into custody, Kuffs is trying to rescue Knife Hand who has been captured, and Hell Priest is en route to catch up with… an old friend, it seems.
Along the way, the reader is introduced to Azaz the book’s main villain, who is running the show at the bazaar. We also meet a woman named Valverde, who is searching for the “Stem Soul” to save her daughter. I’m sure we’ll see again. Much like previous Jawbreakers books, there is very little connective tissue between moments of action, for better or worse. I did find that I wanted to learn more about the bazaar itself, what kind of person attended and what kinds of items they traded. There’s a lot going on with ancient texts, antimatter, and something called nega-stones (which I guess drain powers?), but it’s never really tied together.
The soon-to-be Jawbreakers all seem to know each other, but it’s not clear how. I suspect, again being familiar with Meyer’s previous promotional videos, that they all knew each other previously as superheroes, though that is never alluded to in the book itself. I have to say that Silkworm’s motivations are tough to read. He’s definitely a dick and unpredictable, and doesn’t seem to be much of a “leader” type. Though the Jawbreakers sometimes seem to be held together by a thread, so maybe Silkworm’s reticent leadership is partly to blame for that.
Outside of the over-the-top action, there are some genuinely funny moments, too. There is an extremely cathartic moment for those of us who were emotionally struck by the 9/11 attacks, and my biggest laugh easily came from a moment when Silkworm is forced to cooperate with his former enemies.
Aaron Alfeche’s artwork shines once again. Despite Jon Malin giving the characters a great start with Jawbreakers: Lost Souls, I have to say that Alfeche’s renditions of the core team are quickly being cemented in my mind as the “authoritative” versions, especially Silkworm and Devildog. The action is detailed and dynamic, which is a necessity for a Jawbreakers book, although there were a handful of facial expressions that were distractingly… off. The only other criticism I’d offer is the misuse of Arabic lettering at one point, as the script isn’t typed in the correct direction (from right to left) and the letters aren’t connected the way they should be. I don’t recall finding a single typo otherwise.
The second story in the book is titled Jawbreakers: Sacred Blood, a 20-page tale written and illustrated by Marco Cannella.
The story once again follows the Jawbreakers team as they attempt to rescue the child of the president (of some such South/Central American country) from a cartel. The plan is to sacrifice the kid to the evil Mama Dulzona – a medicine woman who seems to have transformed into a tree demon of some kind.
Sacred Blood is the creepiest of the Jawbreakers stories so far, and it gives us a really cool glimpse at Hell Priest and his abilities. It’s a fun read for a backup story, but it’s unsurprisingly not as satisfying as Grand Bizarre, and not just because it’s shorter. Not only is there a luchador-looking guy that looks and acts a bit too on the nose like Bane, but there are several odd transitions from panel to panel that made more a more confusing read.
There were also some visual inconsistencies as well, most notably being Silkworm’s webs being colored as a yellowish brown rather than its typical blue-purple color from the other books. Not the biggest deal in the world, but it did take a second to realize what I was looking at.
A short, 7-page Nexus story rounds out the story content in the book. For those unfamiliar with the character, Nexus has been aptly described as a “Space Punisher”, who travels through space to bring swift justice to the worst of the galaxy’s criminals.
In this brief tale co-authored by Meyer and Nexus co-creator Mike Baron, a sentient computer is actively building a corps of Nexus look-alike robots to clean up the galaxy. Naturally, the real deal shows up and gives his very pointed assessment of the endeavor.
Alfeche provides more solid artwork for this short but fun read, which is an odd capstone to a Jawbreakers book but a welcome addition, nonetheless.
All in all, Jawbreakers: Grand Bizarre is a solid package. After the three stories there is also a a few pages featuring Jawbreakers fan art and other artwork, plus a black and white preview of the fourth book, Jawbreakers Forever.
The main Grand Bizarre story is perhaps the best Jawbreakers adventure yet, though if you aren’t on board with the high-octane, “action over drama” tone and pace of the series, then Grand Bizarre certainly won’t convert you.
Communication and Fulfillment
Meyer posted dozens of updates on the Grand Bizarre Indiegogo page and sent a similar number of emails detailing the status of the project. In addition, there were regular updates via his YouTube channel, Comics Matter with Ya Boi Zack.
This is all well and good, but no amount or frequency of communication can fully account for how late the book was. The Indiegogo page promised an October 2020 fulfillment date, and it was later updated with a December 2021 date. The books didn’t start arriving in backers’ mailboxes until 21 July 2022, so that makes the book 21 months late. That’s unsat, Marine. Meyer has launched his follow-up Jawbreakers campaign – Jawbreakers Forever – with a special $1 buy-in price, in part to make up for his being so late on Grand Bizarre. While that gesture is appreciated, it doesn’t specifically rectify the problem for all of those who backed Grand Bizarre, but here’s hoping that some serious lessons learned are applied in the future.
Packaging and Shipping
Grand Bizarre was shipped snugly in a Gemini mailer, and everything arrived 100% in good shape. There was plenty of boards and shrink-wrapping for protection, and the the dog tags were packed outside of boards, which was smart way to ensure that they didn’t cause any dents in the book or the poster.
I didn’t receive a tracking number when it shipped, but otherwise, no complaints on how the book and extras arrived.
Stretch Goals and Bonuses
Aside from the book itself, Jawbreakers: Grand Bizarre came with a folded pinup poster of Azaz and a set of Jawbreakers dog tags. The dog tags are a unique trademark of Meyer’s campaigns, and they are stiff, steel (I think), high quality, and feel just like the military tags they’re designed after.
The poster is illustrated by Sashi, who has provided poster art for previous Splatto Comics campaigns. These are typically “sexy” pinups, but the Grand Bizarre pinup is of the book’s main villain, Azaz, who – despite being a fit female – is unlikely to arouse any sensual feelings. I think that it would have made more sense for Sashi to do a pinup style poster of Valverde instead, though I suppose that there may be an opportunity to do so in the future as I expect that the character will return in future Jawbreakers books.
That’s all that came with the standard book buy-in. No additional tchotchkes or signatures, but no real complaints about the quality of what was promised.
The big question is whether I would back again. As a matter of fact, I’ve already backed the next Jawbreakers book, so “yes.” Grand Bizarre was unacceptably late, but Meyer and Splatto Comics had already fulfilled enough books in the past that I was never really concerned that I wouldn’t get my book. Though it’s not a deep, emotional tale, the main Grand Bizarre story is the most entertaining Jawbreakers book to date and everything shipped safe and sound. Just tighten up that fulfillment calendar, Marine!
Overall Grade: B-
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