Quick Rating: Excellent!
It’s Grendel – what more do you need?
Writer: Matt Wagner
Artists: Bernie Mireault and Jay Geldhof
Editor: Diana Schutz
Cover art: John K. Snyder III
Review: Let me begin by invoking the Bacchus of rock criticism, Lester Bangs. He once began a review by describing how he had discovered true love while attending a Barry White concert. The object of his affection, as I recall, was the silken soul singer himself. Lester made it sound as though he was tempted to slip off his skivvies and treat Barry White like so many have treated Tom Jones.
I have attended a few concerts in my time, but I have never been enticed to send my cotton personals on a long arc toward the stage. For that matter, I have never seen anyone else’s underwear land on the stage. The panties may be willing, but the arms are unable. Joey Ramone and Lyle Lovett and Bill Monroe just do not attract their fair share of undergarments, anyway.
Besides, I am very close to my underwear. You and I probably do not have much in common, but we are likely to share that quality. And I do not speak of mere proximity. Even the old, raggedy stuff in the back of your sock drawer is difficult to part with. Let’s face it. Your underwear goes where few others have traveled. I know the truth. You love your underwear.
When I rediscovered comics in the 1980’s, it was Matt Wagner and Dave Sim and Alan Moore that led me back. Sim and Moore and so many others are for another day. Today, let us praise Matt Wagner.
Grendel: God and the Devil #8 (Dark Horse) is a reprint of Grendel #31 (Comico) from May 1989. The entire God and the Devil is a reprint of a run from that original Grendel series. It has been re-colored, which it needed. It also sports a snappy new cover by John K. Snyder III. I can tell you much about the original, because it was sitting in the back of my sock drawer with those lucky boxers that I save for long airplane flights. These are a few of my favorite things. (Grendel in comics and whiskers on kittens; bright lucky undies and warm woolen mittens; brown paper packages tied up with strings… my god! What was in those anyway, Julie?)
Grendel is a true anti-hero. He accomplishes heroic ends through non-heroic means. Essentially, the various Grendel comics trace the passing of the Grendel mantle through time, leaping across generations on occasion. In each age, the populace interprets the character of Grendel differently, funneling that understanding through one focal point.
So, what’s happening here? The series takes place in a future America, devastated by ecological contempt and dominated by a twisted version of the Catholic Church. And vampires are real. Orion Assante, a rich man who has always lived outside of the church’s purview, has taken on the church and been forced to flee. This issue tells how he is lured back to the Church’s territory and the tragic consequences that follow. Meanwhile, Grendel wages his own battle against the Church. And vampires make an appearance.
This is not for those who are easily offended. This is not for children. Interestingly, the original issue includes an unsigned letter, which expresses great unhappiness with Wagner’s treatment of the Catholic Church. Diana Schutz, editor then and now, commented at the time that it was the first condemnation they had received. No such letter appears in the reprint. Perhaps that is progress of a sort.
Matt Wagner demonstrates an incredible capacity for epic storytelling here. He is one of the few writers who have written anything that could keep me interested for ten months or more. He has a multitude of clearly delineated characters within a web of sub-plots. He knows enough to close some story lines each month just so the reader feels justified in having bothered. And still, this issue ends with a classic cliffhanger.
The art by Bernie Mireault and Jay Geldhof remains stunning. Need I tell you that the improved coloring and superior paper quality make the pictures shine? These artists threw everything they knew about comics into these books. You should own this issue just so you can take it out and show the bottom panel on page nineteen to your friends.
Diana Schutz also deserves Excelsior for drawing readers into the world behind the pages. This side of Brian Bendis, no one else captures the essence of a Bullpen Bulletin, as well.
If you don’t have the original issues or you do but they have gotten a little gross in your underwear drawer, then you need to buy these. I understand that there may have been some concerns about how Dark Horse originally solicited this series. It is not new Grendel. I don’t care. I know the truth. You would love Grendel.