Sunday, May 20, 2012

Grendel Classics #1 & 2

by Matt Wagner, with Bernie Mireault

These two comics were published by Dark Horse in 1995, but they reprint four earlier Grendel comics from 1988.  I've been in a Grendel mood of late, and have been looking to fill in some of the gaps in my collection (truthfully, those gaps are more like chasms).

These two issues are terrific.  They both feature stories being narrated by the cop with the metal eye (can't remember his name right now), and they both recount stories from the Hunter Rose days.  With both stories, Wagner indulged himself in some experimentation with layout and storytelling, which make these incredibly dense and meaty stories.

The first, Devil Tracks, is told almost entirely in a twenty-five panel grid.  Yes, twenty-five tiny pictures per page, with a text box under each one made up of the dialogue.  The story is a classic police procedural about some shady doings in the diamond industry.  A wealthy family looks to be smuggling diamonds and trying to game the system a little.  A police lieutenant figures out something is going on when he overhears his captain accept a bribe in a washroom (a recurring theme between these two stories), and begins investigating.  Eventually, this all leads to a confrontation between Grendel and Argent, the werewolf who works with the police, where the tight grid breaks down.  It's a very good story.

The second tale, Devil Eyes involve a professional snitch who is fed bad information about a hit that Grendel is about to perform.  It turns out he was setting up Argent to look bad, and after everything is said and done, Tommy the snitch is sure that his life is going to end.  He holes up in his apartment, and descends into madness.  For this story, Wagner uses long thin panels (about 5 or 6 per page), above which are stage directions or the actual comics script describing what each panel would show.  Below that is Tommy's running monologue.  I found this story wasn't as effective as the first, but still very good.

I really wish that Wagner would return to his Grendel universe, and tell some more, non-Hunter Rose stories, as there is so much depth to his creation.

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