Ah, that urge to impress that drives young love to reckless excess. It’s bad enough if your parents own a really slick car or the perks of your job give you after hours access to a theme park Ferris wheel. But in “Kim Reaper” #2, Sarah Graley shows us it’s just exponentially worse when your magic scythe can shepherd wayward souls to the great beyond or transport you and a cutie twenty thousand leagues under the briny deep.
”Kim Reaper” #2
Written & Illustrated by Sarah Graley
Lettered by Crank!
Guiding souls to the afterlife doesn’t always go smoothly, especially when SOMEONE (Becka!) interrupts the job. Now, Kim and Becka must contend with a very irate and very uncooperative customer. The pair need to hatch a plan to complete Kim’s allotment of souls without interruption, or Kim may lose her job—and potentially her life!
“There’s more to being a grim reaper than hooking up with babes,” Kim protests before using her scythe to open a portal for her and Becka to go rummaging around a haunted shipwreck. Under Sarah Graley’s playful characterization, Kim is a mixture of punk sensibility and fearless adventurism. There’s a real sense that, assisted as she is by her grim reaper mysticism, she’s truly the type of person that goes where she wants, whenever she wants, to get as scared as she wants. So technically, yes, there is more to being a grim reaper. But the half-smirks and excitement that Graley uses to draw her during this scene makes it apparent that Kim’s fully aware that her vocation swings with a level of bad-assery that will naturally make the babes swoon, whether she’s trying to hook up or not.
That’s what makes it all the more impressive when Graley closes “Kim Reaper” #2 with an abrupt about face. Becka, her infatuation perhaps cooled a few degrees after being possessed by a haunted pirate hat and having Kim exercise the ghoul with an extra-firm gut punch, not only recognizes the inherent danger of her crush’s job, but also that this danger is compounded tenfold by Kim’s recklessness. “I’ve put it out there that I’d like to date you, but I don’t want to babysit you”, she says, walking away without looking back.
So much of fiction is predicated on the allure of the quirky, dangerous stranger. It’s that narrative saying we’d all give up our mundane day-to-day to run off with a lovable rogue bounding from one adventure to the next, narrowly escaping death and dismemberment at every clever turn of phrase. Call it Gallifrey Syndrome – there’s consent, and no one’s being held captive, but the threat of imminent danger is real, and it’s no less unhealthy of a relationship than the classic Stockholm version. Behind the quips and portal jumping there’s a dark side. And between the adrenaline thrills and the animal attraction, people are too drunk to see it. Sometimes, it takes a demon-possessed hat to help get your head straight. And it’s refreshing to see Becka be so decisive in not wanting to go down that path.
Besides, it doesn’t feel as if Becka’s walking away at the end of “Kim Reaper” #2 just to leave a cliffhanger for next issue. It feels earned. It feels authentic to what we’ve learned about her and Kim – better yet, it’s authentic to what her and Kim have learned about each other. Graley frames this issue like a blind date that goes really well until it doesn’t. “We need a better plan than… ‘Be like ninjas,’” Becka tells Kim before they take a break from soul-reaping to visit Spaceland. Graley’s characterization here is about as succinct as you can get, because that one statement pretty much sums up the both of them.
Part of the reason Becka’s decision is so refreshing is because Graley did such a great job capturing the budding mutual attraction. In many instances the strongest beats came in the smallest details. Sure the stumbling, getting-to-know-you conversations are cute, but it’s the quiet moment at the top of the ferris wheel that really sells things: Kim closing her eyes while contentedly munching on cotton candy and Becka clutching tight to her chest the oversized hot-dog plushie that stretches up to her face so that only the faintest corners of her wide grin peek out. The seeds of a relationship being planted here have an unspoken, uncertain, and effervescent quality that feels real.Continued below
Overall, “Kim Reaper” #2 is just plain fun, in spite of that thematic severity. It’s a bubbly romp where high-fives shoot off glitter and ghouls keep the sunken shipwrecks they haunt dry because they hate getting wet. But what really makes this series so infectious is how genuine the two leads seem. Becka’s eyes are wide and hopeful for the top half of the issue, but by the end, Graley has shrunken them just enough to show disappointment creep in. And for all of Kim’s swagger early on, she’s left subtly curling into herself as she asks, “Do you still want to go out for drinks…?” before Becka turns away.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – A gut-punch exorcism punctuated by the sound effect “B’GON!” is probably the most perfect thing I’ll see this week.