Picking up a five issue mini-series half way through is hard enough without the character itself being in the Indie comic shadows for 25 years. Yet, Matt Wagner’s Grendel: Behold the Devil # 5 of 8 is inviting and told a story I could follow.
Hunter Rose, Wagner’s earliest recorded Grendel, as there have been many, is a novelist of thrillers by day and vigilante-crime boss by night. Used to scaring the crud out of his enemies, the millionaire-scoundrel confronts a being unafraid of death who watches him at all times: a dire-imp.
What is a “dire-imp”? I have now idea. But, Wagner’s writing and narrative doesn’t focus on supernatural exposition, and thankfully centers around Hunter’s concern of having a devil on his back.
As Grendel seeks guidance from the voodoo mystic Toro, he is greeted by the mystic’s zombie guard. What would be a ridiculous and pointless excuse for zombie violence becomes a study of Hunter’s psyche. As he hacks and slashes through the living dead, he feels a sense of melancholy, as there is no joy in fighting and killing if there isn’t fear and despair. Hunter even admits, “In fact, this is almost masturbation. Boring and self-indulgent.” Grendel is vicious, bloody thirsty fighter who enjoys the thrill of frightening people.
As for the narrative, the story jumps from Hunter to a recorded interview, a series of photographs, and a Grendel history by Christine Spar who recounts the present as the past. The devices are dynamic and give the story a larger scope. The excerpt from Spar’s book is exceptionally nice as she relates Grendel’s search for money without knowing his motivation, something the reader obliviously knows.
Wagner’s art, however, left me wanting something grander. The story was much bigger than the Indie art style would allow. The tension between Toro and Grendel was present in the dialogue but not in the characters’ body language. As the two discuss the costly procedure that will exorcise the dire-imp, the words convey Grendel’s threatening demeanor while the art just shows a guy in a costume.
Moreover, must every Caribbean character have dreadlocks and no shirt? This is like the fifth comic in the past three months that has a Jamaican character with the same design. It certainly is not a big problem that would pull you out of this story, but is there some ethic template that artist follow for these kinds of characters? The accent is one thing, but can’t there be some less stereotypical design?
In any case, I was pleased with this random pick up and enjoy riding out the rest of the mini-series.
Final Word: Writing and storytelling great. Indie art style not so much.
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