Morgan Pielli’s Pile of Minis: GRUNE and THE SANCTUARY

Another hot day at my pile of mini comics here at Forbidden Planet Central. …’s basement. And as I construct a pedal-powered fan from black-bagged copies of The Death of Superman and unsold Laser Commando Spawn figures, I keep my mind teetering from the edge of insanity with two new mini comics.

Grune #1 by Zack Giallongo

Grune #1 launches the ongoing series from Zack Giallongo about a trio of warriors and their captive grune creature as they embark on an epic adventure. The brushwork in this book is beautiful. It possesses the same confident draftsmanship as that of Jeff Smith. Gallongo also does a great job at establishing his characters quickly and efficiently. He also does something that I very much admire; he is able to keep clear where all of his characters are within a given space despite moving the proverbial camera around. His simplified backgrounds help with this greatly; they should be required study for all aspiring cartoonists. The downside to this high level of craft and care is that the book is very short, even by mini-comics standards (well, by MY mini comics standards. I mean, there ARE shorter minis out there…), coming in at ten pages. While there is nothing wrong with being left wanting more, it also felt like the artist was holding back. The story seemed to end in the middle, as though it were a preview comic rather than a full first issue.

That aside, this is a gorgeous, well paced comic and I will now have to track down the rest of the issues in the store to devour it.

The Sanctuary #2 by Nate Neal

One of the things I enjoy about reviewing minis is that, more often than not, I come across self-published mini-comics that have since gone on to bigger and better things (often, but not limited to, being collected and put out by a major publishing house). I find myself in the odd position of peering through time at a creator’s early draft. Such is the case with The Sanctuary, a ground-breaking comic about the life and power struggles within a cave-dwelling community that was released as a graphic novel by Fantagraphics in September of 2010.

Told with a combination of pantomime and fictitious cave-speak, The Sanctuary #2 forces the reader into a unique narrative position as a semi-participant. The reader navigates the story by learning to understand the subtext and meaning behind Neal’s cave language by way of the characters’ actions. This puts the reader at a disadvantage to the characters, as he or she is coming into the story from a place of ignorance. As we learn to understand what the characters say, we begin to understand the characters themselves. It is almost like we have been placed within the cave tribe and are learning as a child done.

This fascinating idea could easily carry a normal mini-comic as a gimmick. Fortunately Neal’s story, about a pair of privative artists caught up in inter-tribal power struggles, is strong and interesting on it’s own right. Even starting with issue 2, I was hooked on the larger narrative.

Lush nib-work coupled with a seemingly-well researched subject (I don’t know for sure how accurate this is from an archaeological standpoint, but it all seems, at the very least, well thought out, if not accurate outright), the Sanctuary mini-comics are a great way to sample the larger story for the uninitiated, and a great companion piece to the completed work for the fan.

Morgan Pielli’s newest short comic, A Forged Man, is currently running during the week on-line at

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