Review: ‘Beast of Barton’ by John Grieve

A rhyming tale of Mad Kings, monsters, kill-happy townsfolk and all manner of whats-else, John Grieve’s Beast of Barton is a pretty solid bit of entertainment.

It immediately lives or dies on the rhyming conceit, and to that extent Grieve’s script hits far more than it misses. There’s a simple 4-line rhyme scheme in place (for the most part – this shifts around as the comic goes on), where the second and fourth line of each page rhyme with one another. Because the book comes with a rhyme, it also comes with a pace and beat, which gives it a sing-song eccentricity.


It’s been a while since I can remember reading a rhyming comic – the last to spring to mind is a short story by Joss Whedon and Tim Sale, which was also about a Medieval-styled society with trust issues, coincidentally. The trouble with a rhyming comic is that the art has to be detailed enough to be interesting, but not so detailed that you break from the timing of the words – if the second panel makes you stare at it for too long, you derail the pacing for yourself.

Grieve avoids this carefully, for the most part, setting the comic up with some excellent lettering work – he gets across the points of the script but also allows the art a spotlight, which I think a poor letterer would have struggled with. With that in hand, every time he nails a rhyme, the comic soars.

As in any poem, there are also a few thuds, where a line feels one word too long, or the rhyme is weak – I’m not convinced that “beast” and “deceased” are a solid rhyme, even if there is some assonance there. The occasional miss doesn’t detract from the scripting overall, however, which I found to be a random, silly, entertaining thing.


This is the only preview work I could find online – the finished comic has different lettering

His artwork is decent throughout, although his storytelling is better. He knows how to frame a page so the script can shine, and his sequencing is very well done throughout the issue. He makes the splash sequences stand out brightly, and knows when to move in close on the characters to get right into their perspective.

At times his facial expressions don’t totally match the emotions denoted in the narration, and at times the body language is a little stiff and solid. But this didn’t really bother me, so much, as the pace moved so quickly that you don’t dwell on background.

I thought this was quite a charming comic, which does eccentricity with intelligence and – crucially – places the emphasis on being fun, rather on being self-congratulatory.

You can find more on the comic here.

The Spire has an open submission policy, and accept review copies via the email address on the right. If you have a comic of your own you’d like to see reviewed on the site, please feel free to send it across – bear in mind that I’m going to give an honest opinion on the book, though! Reviews at The Spire can be up as well as down, etc etc.


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