Review: Grendel vs. The Shadow #1

Like most people when I learned that Matt Wagner was making a new Grendel comic I became excited, but I was more excited to see that it was crossing over with The Shadow. If there’s one creator you want handling such a feat it’s Wagner. Of course the question becomes, “what’s his approach?” Typically in a crossover title the two characters facing off are just confused by each other’s presence and then find common ground and work together. The “versus” is really a cop out, but this is Grendel. The thing about the character of Grendel is that you wouldn’t describe him as a hero in the least bit. Nothing about this guy is heroic or even anti-hero(ic). He’s pretty much just a badass villain that overcomes other villains and heroes in his way so Grendel going against The Shadow is already a super interesting idea.

The story kicks off with two treasure hunters looking to sell an ancient burial urn that was lost in the New York Harbor back in the 1930s. Grendel decides to buy it, but he also decides to kill the two men after giving them money. He doesn’t even care about getting the money back, he just wants them dead. He pops open the urn to find an incantation inside and being the learned individual he is he recites it without even a hesitation. Well this proves to be shortsighted as he’s suddenly transported back to the 1930s. Does this faze Grendel? Hell no, instead he begins plotting his new domination of the city.

Meanwhile we check in with the Shadow and admittedly he plays a supporting role more than anything in this issue. The thing is, when he does appear it’s awesome because Wagner captures the character perfectly. Each appearance is marked with laughter as well as each exit.

This first book is lengthy and while I won’t tell you when our two characters come across each other, I will say that Wagner develops it throughout the issue until just the right moment. It really makes the most sense and is very rewarding when it happens.

25559There is nothing typical about this “versus” title. The impression you’re left with is that these two characters are going to square off and while there’s little chance of one of them perishing, it’s still going to be one hell of a fight. The other big difference is that even though Grendel is displaced in time, he doesn’t walk around like a chicken with its head cut off. Instead he adapts and uses his knowledge to gain footing and that was so refreshing. If you’re going to do a crossover versus, this is the blueprint you should follow. Each character feels like they have a role and purpose in the story and while yes one of them was whisked away, it actually makes sense to both universes.

The art is very impressive. I personally really enjoy Wagner’s art style and wished that he either illustrated more or just had someone trying to copy his style 24/7. Since we’ve already run a preview revealing this next bit I’m going to go ahead and tell you that this story starts off like the other Grendel stories in black & white, but then switches to color when he’s transported. I thought this was very awesome and honestly it’s so seamless that you may not notice. I didn’t until going back through the opening again because I was so wrapped up in the story.

Another thing that really makes this book a work of art is the fact that Wagner keeps the traditional font style and lettering for Grendel’s character. I think that was very important because in a way it’s Grendel’s voice. For The Shadow he goes with the inverted white font and black word bubble and it characterizes him a lot. All of the lettering was really well thought out and adds to the story.

This is also a really long issue. It’s more than a double-sized issue, but don’t worry you’ll be glad you have so much to read. It’s an immersive read and you’ll quickly forget about page length and anything else because the story will hook you. The pages are definitely worth the price so don’t miss out on this issue even if it’s your first story with either of these great characters.

Score: 5/5

Writer/Artist: Matt Wagner Colorist: Brennan Wagner Letterer: Michael Heisler Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $5.99 Release Date: 9/3/14 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital