• Grendel Vs. The Shadow #1

    Grendel Vs. The Shadow #1
    Released by: Dark Horse Comics
    Released on: September 3rd, 2014.
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    Written and illustrated by Matt Wagner with colors by Brennan Wagner, this three issue prestige format limited series event starts off in modern times (pre 9/11 at least) day as we’re told a story that took place in the 1930’s. We hear of a ‘notorious Tong boss…imagines himself a direct descent of Genghis Khan! Also something of a sorcerer!’ Turns out this cat is trying to augment his evil powers by smuggling an urn into the states but something goes wrong and that something is The Shadow. Twin nickel plated .45’s are unleashed along with a torrent of laughter and that urn winds up on the bottom of New York Harbor.

    It turns out that Grendel, or Hunter Rose if you prefer, has been approached by a pair of treasure hunters who have retrieved this urn and are interested in selling it to him. He’s already got quite a collection of historical artifacts and this might make a nice addition. A deal is struck but the two men are incinerated after they leave along with the eighty grand in cash he gave them, even if his assistant Larry finds that move frivolous. But what of the urn and its contents? It’s opened and inside is a scroll in ancient Mandarin containing the ‘Eternity Codex.’ Hunter reads it and he’s swallowed through some sort of rift that opens up. He travels back to the 1930’s and is understandably confused as to how this happened but soon enough he puts on that familiar black and white mask and decides to take advantage of the situation.

    On the other side of town, playboy Lamont Cranston exits a limousine and heads into a night club with his lady friend Margo Lane. They discuss how prohibition has only created a wealthy class of criminals and how should the law be appealed, it would be chaos should a criminal mastermind swoop in and take control of the ensuing chaos. Cut to a warehouse where a group of gangsters are interrogating a man. A familiar man, if you can call him that, shows up clad in black and red. The guns erupt, the laughter starts and justice is served out in the form of hot lead. The Shadow frees the man and recruits him as an agent.

    In a fancy apartment elsewhere, a Jewish mobster named Rubenstein discusses business with a Mafioso named Lorenzo Valenti. A Don is dying from cancer and this provides opportunity for a power grab. Lorenzo’s daughter, Sofia, shows up and makes a scene. Grendel, however, has already started planning his takeover by slaughtering a group of mobsters at a loading dock and claiming the contraband booze as his own. One of The Shadow’s agents witnessed it and reports back to his boss with his findings. Lamont and Margo discuss the massacre while the local mobsters assess the situation and try to come up with a plan of their own and a dashing new man about town named Hunter Rose makes the scene at a nightclub attended by none other than Sofia Valenti… until she’s summoned by her father to accompany her to a meeting with Grendel himself.

    Wagner obviously has always held a fantastic control over Grendel, his own creation and a character he’s gone back to time and again since creating him in the indie comic boom of the early eighties but here he deftly blends Hunter Rose’s saga with that of The Shadow in very clever ways. While these two men, both deadly, come at their work from opposite sides, the first issue of this series does a great job of pointing out just how much they have in common. Dual identities, an affluent lifestyle, ruthless efficiency and no feeling whatsoever for those who get in their way. It will be interesting to see as this story plays out if they remain foes as this issue’s cliffhanger infers they’ll be or if they will manage some sort of alliance – the elimination of New York City’s underworld is in their collective best interest, albeit for very different reason.

    It’s also interesting how Wagner lets us into the heads of different supporting characters. Here Margo Lane is questioning her value to Cranston. She cares for him but does he even need her? Meanwhile it would seem obvious that Sofia and Hunter are going to engage in more than just a simple nightclub meeting as their back and forth in those quick pages definitely shows that there’s something of a spark there. Plenty to think about here until the next issue hits the stands and it’s all delivered in Wagner’s literate, clever style. The plot device of having what is basically a magic spell send Rose back in time seems a little hokey but everything else in chapter one scores high marks. The artwork is in Wagner’s instantly recognizable style with lots of heavy lines and inks and a fantastic use of shadow, even some art deco touches here and there particularly in the way that the buildings and interior design of the era is illustrated. Brennan Wagner’s work in the coloring department is also notable. Obviously black and red will dominate much of the artwork here but he brings in plenty of other shades and hues in interesting and creative ways. This is off to a great start, it’s a very multi-layered story thus far, let’s see where it goes from here.

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Christian Bates-Hardy's Avatar
      Christian Bates-Hardy -
      I am a HUGE fan of the Hunter Rose version of Grendel. I need to pick this up one it's in a hardcover or trade paperback edition.