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Grendel: Red, White & Black #1

Posted: Thursday, September 26, 2002
By: Craig Lemon



Writer: Matt Wagner
Artists: Jill Thompson, Andy Kuhn, Stan Sakai, Jim Mahfood, Tom Fowler

Publisher: Dark Horse


Before I get into the review proper, let's look at the downside first - this is a 48-page comic for $4.99. It is not in prestige format, it does not have a card cover, in fact the cover feels far more flimsy that the interior pages themselves. The package screams to have been made a prestige, square-bound book, to sit nicely on your shelves with your graphic novels and trade paperbacks, clear printing on the spine to identify it; and I'm afraid it is destined to end up bagged, boarded and stored in people's boxes, hidden away rather than allowed out into the light, where it deserves to be.

And it does deserve to be out on display, because, excuse my french, it's bloody good. It's not just bloody good, it's great.

Ahem.

Similar to the first series, Black, White & Red, this is a four-issue anthology series, all the shorts written by Grendel's creator Matt Wagner, illustrated by a veritable feast of star artists. The shorts all concern themselves with the first Grendel, Hunter Rose, who, despite dying very early on in the saga, years ago, is such a fascinating subject that you would be happy to read endless vignettes about his life and time as Grendel.

Speaking of Endless, the first story in this book is "The Nasty Li'l Devil", art by Jill Thompson in a style very reminiscent of her Li'l Endless Prestige book by DC and her depiction of same in the Sandman series. For seven pages it retells the life and times of Hunter Rose as Grendel, neatly summarising previous stories in prose....until the kicker of the final page, which lends justification to the design and style of these seven pages and makes one jump in surprise and delight.

This story is followed by "Devil's Assumption", Andy Kuhn's piece. I have to admit to be unfamiliar with his work - he's done stuff for all the big publishers, most recently the Joker's Last Laugh for DC - but it works well in the context of this story, a fairly straightforward tale of Grendel beginning to gain influence in the criminal underworld at the start of his career.

"Devil Say, Devil Do", with Stan Sakai, is a well-executed piece taking the minimalist approach to dialogue and sound effects, to reflect the story's theme of a desperate attempt to escape the Devil's pursuit. Of course, there can be only one ending to such a pursuit...

Jim Mahfood is up next, drawing "Devil Colors", a story about a graphiti artist's path crossing with Grendel's...who do you think has the biggest spray can?

Finally comes "Devil's Dash", a fitting but totally grotesque end-piece drawn by Tom Fowler (from Star Wars comics fame), about a corrupt congressman receiving his comeuppance - it's a reminder that some Grendel art has been really nasty in the past...

Overall, they are all hits...although you do wonder if maybe a mini-series on Hunter Rose might be a nice idea, a longer storyline involving the character would be ace.

Highly recommended, even if you're unfamiliar with the character - the introductory piece tells it all.



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