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Gridley #1 (review) – The Exile

Creator: Sid Quade

Self-published, July 2023

Giles Gridley and his sister Alexandra are of the Kaftar people, who live in a desert city reminiscent of Timbuktu. The story begins with Giles rummaging around his house, looking for things to take with him as he prepares for exile on the orders of the city’s leader, Chieftain Oralin. Alexandra is aghast at the news that her brother has been cast out. But this beginning to Gridley #1, by Sid Quade, understates the quirkiness of the title: Kaftars are magical creatures which look like horned, upright hyenas, who can apparently shapeshift, and Giles is cast into exile because he has been bitten by a vampire.

The promotional copy reads as follows:

Fate isn’t kind to Giles Gridley.

Exiled from his insular clan after contracting vampirism, Giles is forced to make do elsewhere. Follow Giles as he navigates the warm sands of Talvit City while dodging the icy stares of those who don’t take too well to outsiders. Will he find a place that values his secrets?

Gridley is an ongoing comic series following the titular Giles Gridley, a misfit wizard who is better at talking to the dead than the living. Gridley is a unique blend of Fantasy and Weird Western.

Notwithstanding the comedy, the story looks at issues of alienation arising from forced expatriation. Giles arrives in Talvit City, looking like a human, but standing out like a sore thumb. His pale appearance and prominent features, and his black clothes, give him away as an outsider almost immediately. He is mocked by the locals immediately upon his arrival, is verbally abused by a bartender, and gets into a fistfight with a patron.

Sporting a black eye, Giles eventually finds his way to the Wizarding Guild and secures employment as an ectomancer. His new boss is the grandiose sounding Jasper Cullman Glass, Guildmaster of the Talvit City Chapter of the Wizarding Guild. Jasper himself is not human – he looks like a small woolly mammoth, with a stripy nose, decked out in finery. And Jasper quickly spots Giles as a Kaftar, and in the interests of ‘building trust’ requires Giles to drop his human mask. “You know, I keep forgetting how big you folk are” says Jasper when Giles resumes his nature appearance. And when they shake hands, Jasper says, “To be fair, I can’t help but think that people are probably a little scared of you because of your sheer size. Look at your hands – they could crush melons!” (Giles will be a very large vampire in due course, we expect.) Jasper, for his part, is a good person: “I would take stock in an individual’s merit, not in the vague rumors whispered in the dark to scare children.” Jasper’s offsider is deeply suspicious of hiring a Kaftar, especially one who has just been in a scuffle.

Creator Sid Quade has crafted Giles to be a likeable character, with a temper, but who stoically deals with his fall. Like most refugees, he is sad to leave his people and his home. Squint a little, and Giles’ story could be that of Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), an exiled but preeminent Jewish physician and philosopher. Jewish physicians were well-regarded in medieval Europe and the Middle East. Their ability to cross cultures and languages made them highly knowledgeable medical practitioners – see . Giles dresses in an unorthodox way, and Kaftars are the subject of vile rumours (Giles says the only baby he has ever eaten was “veal”: medieval Jews suffered similar antisemitic “blood libels” – see Blood libel – Wikipedia). And Giles before his exile had a senior role at “the temple”. Without his community, Giles, like so many Jewish refugees in strange lands, has only his faith, his skills, and his willingness to adapt to uncertain circumstance.

There are two striking pieces of art within this first issue:

a. a flashback describing how a gambler named Snakes Eyed Jones causes mayhem with a set of magical dice. The art, which is cartoonish, cleverly changes: the panels bunch, the colour drains into a very light sepia wash, and dialogue boxes fill the panels. It is a visually clever way to demarcate a story within a story; and

b. Gile’s display of his ectoplasmic abilities. Giles lays to rest a ghost trapped in Jones’ magic dice. Mr Quade uses electric blue, in a story otherwise made up almost entirely from a palette of browns, blacks and reds, in those two pages. It is deft, and very striking. And the dialogue is simple and enchanting: “Give me your hands. Trust me… Please. I am here to help.” And the released spirit says, “Thank you”, as she dives upwards into the next phase of her existence.

Our review sounds sombre, but this is a fun, entertaining tale. What is next for Giles? We shall find out in issue 2. Issue 1, which we recommend to readers who like quirkiness in their fantasy, is available on Amazon: Gridley: The Exile eBook : Quade, Sid, Poleleyev, Michael, Spencer, Jackson: Kindle Store