The boom of Substack launches and the new DC content on Webtoon in the past few months have challenged a lot of preconceived notions about who benefits from taking their creator-owned comics to the internet, but comics have been online for years. Even big-name creators with established careers have used social media to both build their audience and feature their work, and some have begun moving away from the industry’s heavy reliance on publishers and centralized distribution methods. But back in 2018, when Kathryn and Stuart Immonen began posting Grass Of Parnassus on a dedicated Instagram account, it felt remarkable.
The Immonens are hardly newcomers to comics, both widely celebrated for their skills with creator-owned and IP work. When Parnassus began, it had been three years since their remarkable Russian Olive To Red King was published, and getting free content from creators of their caliber was a special delight. And now, the Instagram account containing this new work is no longer active, because Grass Of Parnassus has been collected into a book; fans of either—or both—Immonens should pick it up immediately.
It can be hard to translate a comic that was intentionally designed for digital consumption into a print volume, but a combination of the Immonens’ skill and careful planning has made the book a delight to read. The vast majority of the panels are square and presented two to a page, and the comedic beats hit with perfect percussive rhythm. It’s a lot like a printed collection of a newspaper comic strip: Each day’s update is self-contained and given space to breathe, but also linking to the next as the page turns.
The format is well suited for the type of story the Immonens set out to tell in Grass Of Parnassus, a sprawling series of vignettes that are linked by proximity to each other and the titular spaceship. It’s not so much a space opera as a space clip show, flitting rapidly between connected but distinct stories and giving readers a glimpse into the disparate lives of the people who come into contact with the Grass Of Parnassus and its occupants. The result is a feeling of sudden intimacy without a lot of detail, a dizzying and wonderful ride with incredible visual humor.
Stuart Immonen’s immense skill as an artist is on full display as readers are introduced to the cast that populates the world. The designs for both the characters and the ship itself are lively and walk a fine line between familiar and strikingly original. Thankfully, some very robust backmatter from both Immonens shows the process Stuart employed to create many of the most fantastical elements of the book, giving readers insight into a collaborative and joyful creative process. The colors are bright and enchanting, and the book as a whole is a visual delight: It’s a pop-art approach to cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk stories, easy to imagine in the background of The Fifth Element or Cowboy Bebop.
But what makes Grass Of Parnassus truly great is how funny it is. Visual gags are scattered throughout the book (it’s a masterclass in how to tell a hilarious story without letting text get in the way), but the dialogue is packed with jokes, too. They’re two very different books, but Grass Of Parnassus and Russian Olive To Red King feel very much linked, a conversation had by the creators with each other and shared with the reader. While the latter plumbs emotional and philosophical depths of individual grief with unerring precision, the former displays the limitless capacity for ridiculousness and the wide varieties of humanity with bursts of color and laughter. Both are must-read books from one of the best creative teams in comics.