Sarah Graley has quickly been gaining fame due to her distinctive artistic style and genuinely wholesome writing. Her talent as both an artist and a writer appears in all of her works. She adds her personal touch to accentuate the cuteness of everyday life in her diary webcomic OUR SUPER ADVENTURE. Similarly, in her adaptation of Rick and Morty, RICK AND MORTY: LIL POOPY SUPERSTAR, she manages to use her artistic sensibilities to create a heartwarming adventure out of what is normally a dark and nihilistic comedy. Sarah Graley continues to implement her unique style in her newest series KIM REAPER; a supernatural queer rom-com about college crushes and reapin’ souls.

The first issue of KIM REAPER (published by Oni Press) establishes the personalities of the two main characters as well as the tone for the conflicts. Emotions move quickly in this series and the bond that forms between Becka and Kim might seem to be rushed at first. However, Sarah Graley’s signature style, both in terms of art and dialogue help to rapidly define the personalities of the two main characters. This bypasses the need for the downtime characters use to reflect on their feelings. Therefore, the emotive nature of Graley’s style allows the audience to easily empathize with Becka and Kim.

READ: Interested in more of Sarah Graley’s work? Read ComicsVerse’s interview with her!

Mundane Beginnings and Expressive Personalities

KIM REAPER begins with a cute depiction of a mundane situation — Becka the preppy college girl is crushing on a classmate super hard and forces her bestie to put up with it. While Sarah Graley could have begun with the titular Kim going around doing cool grim reaper antics, instead she decided to focus on the characterization of Becka. Becka’s infatuation with Kim, the “cutie with a booty,” is one of the primary vehicles for plot progression. In different hands, this opening could have been much less compelling and informative for the reader. However, this is exactly where Graley’s signature style shines through.

Image courtesy of Oni Press.

Every panel accentuates the personalities of each character. For example, take the second and third panel of the first page. Graley depicts Becka pining for her classroom crush with heart-shaped pupils and sparkly stars floating around her. This contrasts with the very next panel. When Becka’s best friend Tyler tries to get her to focus on class instead of cute girls, she responds with emotive gremlin-like growling. She also has a red aura denoting her heated passion that does not expand past Tyler’s head. This shows that these outbursts are common and he is unfazed by this one.

In the next panel, we see Kim in the foreground, denoting her as the object of Becka’s desire. Back in the corner, Becka displays an unnecessary amount of movement for the situation. Tyler, however, continues to be unfazed by her outburst, showing that Becka’s haughty posturing doesn’t reflect her true nature. Becka and Tyler egg each other on until Becka explodes in heated passion. As Becka’s justification for such intense infatuation, three manifestations of her feelings about Kim appear: explosive passion singing the praises of her crush’s booty; spiritual passion (and confusion) about Kim’s gothness; and finally, frank commentary on her future with Kim and Tyler’s obligation to support her.

READ: Still need to scratch that Rick and Morty itch? Read ComicsVerse’s take on the season premiere!

Each stage of Becka’s rant shows a different facet of her personality through exaggerated details that reflect her inner feelings. After Tyler gives one last word of deterrence, Becka responds with the clashing image of her claiming she’s “goth as hell” — accompanied by tiny skull eyes and a flowery pink aura. This page serves to inform the reader of the general style for the rest of the series, i.e. Sarah Graley’s signature style. It also establishes Becka’s primary motivation as an admittedly mundane crush on a classmate. Becka’s exaggerated demonstrations stem from a relatable place, thereby humanizing her. We can all relate to what it feels like to be passionately infatuated with someone and the subsequent need to justify it.

Image courtesy of Oni Press.

A Magical Vortex and the Beginning of Adventure

After winning over Tyler, Becka comes up with the brilliant idea to invite Kim to the pub, a very normal way of getting to know someone. However, during Becka’s effort to invite her crush, Kim’s magic vortex sucks her in. She gets unwittingly thrust into the supernatural life of the titular character. This scene further accentuates Becka’s headstrong and passionate personality. Even in the face of the unknown, she has as bold a personality as ever. After all, Becka’s first instinct is to record the portal on her phone. Even when caught in it, her nonplussed attitude shows her to be surprisingly unfazed.

Sarah Graley
Image courtesy of Oni Press.

The next scene acts as the introduction of the true Kim to both Becka and the audience. After appearing in what looks like an old lady’s house, Kim attempts to reap a cat’s soul. Despite having such a minor target, however, Kim is visibly hesitant and overly careful. Already we can tell that she’s new to this job. Obviously, Becka can’t read the title of the comic, so to her it looks like Kim is trying to kill the cat with her scythe. She interrupts the reaping, prompting Kim’s self-introduction. Kim assumes Becka is the homeowner and begins with a perfunctory apology and an offhand mention of the afterlife, unaware of who Becka actually is. Kim becomes defensive after learning Becka’s her classmate and expresses both her discomfort at Becka’s constant staring in class and being followed on the job. This shows that she’s more secretive and private than Becka.

READ: Want another point of view on KIM REAPER? Here’s our review of the first issue!

Kim then poses with her scythe aggressively with a vortex of purple spirits at her back. Where Sarah Graley earlier depicted Becka’s passionate anger with red aura and fire, she depicts Kim’s with brooding purples and ghostly silhouettes. Becka interrupts Kim’s dialogue by snatching the scythe to inspect it. Kim, behind Becka, is momentarily shocked out of her practiced theatrics and at a loss for words. The intentionally sudden shift in tone between the two panels makes the joke land much harder. The background returns to swirling purple when Kim snatches back her scythe. Kim shouts with fiery conviction that only she may touch the scythe, but her blushing cheeks and pointy teeth reveal that she has lost her composure.

Becka expresses her misconception that Kim kills people (or at least animals), prompting Kim to explain the nature of her job as a grim reaper: she’s a guide for souls ready to move on to the afterlife. Kim completes her introduction revealing two key pieces of information. She is, in fact, a rookie only authorized to reap animal souls, and she is terrified of losing her job. That fear is heightened when they hear the homeowner return.

Part-Time Reapers Don’t Always Know What They’re Doing

Now that the end seems nigh, Kim loses her cool and spirals into panic. Through her facial expressions, body posture, and anxious dialogue, she reveals that she is not the calm and collected reaper she wants to appear to be. She’s bumbling through a new job and is terrified at the prospect of losing it (and her life). Becka acts as a foil to this. Her positive vibes help Kim calm down and brings the two of them closer. Becka’s composure is one of her strongest traits: her ability to maintain her positive vibes and channel them in the weirdest of situations allows her to think straight even as Kim runs out of ideas.

The issue ends with a confrontation with the first villain of the series — a surprisingly lively individual I wouldn’t dare spoil. Both Kim and Becka try to overcome this threat peacefully. This shows that they approach conflict in similar ways despite having such different personalities and therefore may be more alike than they once seemed.

READ: Like Sarah Graley’s Rick and Morty comic spin-off? ComicsVerse interviewed the creative team behind the newest spin-off series!

By the last page of KIM REAPER, readers will undoubtedly have gained a meaningful understanding of Becka and Kim’s personalities. While their dynamic will be solidified in following issues, it is still pretty clear how the two main characters play off each other. Becka’s bold and positive personality contrasts with Kim’s pessimistic self-doubt. However, it is that contrast that will bring them together. Though the story moves at a quick pace, Sarah Graley’s signature style packs a wealth of information in each panel. This helps to establish a strong bond between the two main characters. This allows the romance plot between them to flourish in the coming issues without the need for any narration or backstory exposition.

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