In the last issue of Grendel vs. The Shadow the two characters came face to face for the first time on the very last page. It was a wonderful tease because the build up to their first encounter came in the form of a well-plotted story; so that when they did meet it made perfect sense. Before we dive into the story I will say that The Shadow seems to take a secondary role in this issue, but that’s okay; in the hey-days of character crossovers involving two publishers the results where boring and self-serving. Each publisher needed their character to have “x” amount of pages and usually what ended up happening is that each publisher would write an issue starring their character and “their side of the story.” Imagine reading that each time you picked up a crossover involving two companies and their most popular characters… let’s just say that most people learned to skip those issues fairly quickly.
Now with this second issue we open up with Grendel and The Shadow fighting. That’s right Matt Wagner doesn’t mess around and instead delivers the good stuff right away. Their battle is epic and all throughout we’re given Grendel’s narration and he’s like an excited kid on the first day of school. He doesn’t let his excitement get the best of him, but The Shadow does manage to gain a temporary victory on him. Mostly because he wasn’t expecting him and had no idea what the Shadow was capable of; the crazy part is that Grendel is forced to leave without his staff… yeah; your mind should be blown.
I would love nothing more than to go on and on about this issue. The parts The Shadow is in are wonderful and make you wonder where Wagner is going to take this story. As for Grendel’s role, well you’re already likely to be pretty hooked on his story. And the ending… oh the ending. I stood up from my chair to read the last few pages. It was that intense and the perfect cliffhanger for the issue.
Wagner’s narration is excellent in the story. Mostly it comes from Grendel, but even when he adds some to The Shadow it’s excellent. The thing about both narrations is that it’s actually different from their dialogue. Something a lot of creators miss is that the narration is supposed to be the characters honest thoughts and how we talk out loud and how we talk inside our head are very different. Wagner is one of the few creators that I think captures that with ease.
The art is delightful. Wagner in my opinion is underappreciated and it only seems to be because he’s not drawing characters from the big two or variant covers. His line work is amazing and worth studying. There will never be another talent like him in comics, but damnit I wish I were seeing others at least attempting it. In particular I enjoy seeing The Shadow in his civilian life. He just looks cranky and it’s the perfect counter to his alter ego.
The coloring on the issue adds to the atmosphere of the story. It succeeds in making the era look realistic and classic. The coloring transports you to the time and allows you to get lost there right alongside of Grendel.
This is the best “versus” storyline I have ever read. I have no idea how it’s going to end and even if it ends with a “happy ending”; I think I’ll be alright with that. Matt Wagner has put a lot of thought and time into this story and that has made it far better than any of its predecessors. Take note comic industry because I’m going to say it again, this is the blueprint on how to create a “versus” between two different companies characters. It’s a very impressive story paired with fantastic art.
Writer/Artist: Matt Wagner Colorist: Brennan Wagner Publisher: Dark Horse Comics/Dynamite Price: $4.99 Release Date: 10/8/14 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital