Sunday, April 1, 2012

Grendel: God and the Devil

Written by Matt Wagner
Art by John K. Snyder III, Jay Geldhof, Bernie Mireault, and Tim Sale

I really don't understand why it took me so long to start filling in the gaps in my collection of Matt Wagner's incredible Grendel series.  I first started reading the comics when Dark Horse published the War Child mini-series back in the early 90s, and I was blown away, but I've never made a concerted effort to read the entire saga in its proper order.  I recently read the Devils Reign trade, and it spurred me to get a few of the other Dark Horse reprints, if I could find them.

God and the Devil is the story of future Grendel Khan Orion Assante, and his quest to limit the power of Pope Innocent XLII and his minions at Vatican Ouest, which as become a central power in the year 2530, when this series is set.

The Pope is a hideous creature (with a secret that comes as a bit of surprise, if you aren't reading these trades out of order like I am) who has begun to bleed the country dry, and who has control of almost every company that helps to keep order and run things.  He runs an Inquisition that has most people terrified, and has an incredible degree of control of the media.  He is building a gigantic tower, with a goal that is incredibly comic-book bad guy, but which also fits the logic of the story.

The spirit of the Grendel has possessed one man - Eppy Thatcher, a poor genius, who begins to make a series of insane and brilliant attacks on the church, especially as it gears up for its large Easter celebrations.  Thatcher's actions get in the way of Assante's more organized and legal attack, and it's not long before things start to get very chaotic.  Add to this the agenda of Pellon Cross, the Commissioner of COP, a police force for hire, and things get really crazy.

Wagner is a terrific writer, able to juggle numerous plot threads masterfully, and with a lot of density.  The art for most of this book is by John K. Snyder III, who I've always admired.  It's not as wild as his art can often be, but I think that's because of the influence of inkers Jay Geldhof and Bernie Mireault.  Tim Sale draws the introductory chapter.

This is a very enjoyable read, which asks some important questions about the power given to the media and organized religion in our society.  It's also a very exciting comic towards the end, with a big cinematic finish.  I really wish that Wagner would return to the later days of his Grendel epic, instead of only giving us short stories that feature Hunter Rose from time to time.

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