A comprehensive Grendel omnibus seems somewhat overdue, but Dark Horse's four-book
series of mammoth Grendel collections should appease any long-suffering
fan of Matt Wagner's antiheroic saga. The first tome, released just this
month, focuses appropriately on the quintessential Grendel, Hunter
Rose, and amasses over twenty issues (approx. 600 pages) from various miniseries and
one-shots. The omnibus utilizes Wagner's Grendel: Devil by the Deed
as a prologue.
1986's stand-alone Devil by the Deed, which ran as a serialized backup in Wagner's Mage series (1984-1986), provides not only an introduction
to lead character Hunter Rose, who is a kind of anti-Bruce Wayne/Batman, his enigmatic, lycanthropic
foil, Argent, and Stacy, the orphaned girl for whom they both share a
disturbingly amorous propensity, but also to the red and black dichromatic motif of
Hunter Rose's chronicles. It is in the visuals that this opening
installment shines. The chapter is a revelation in graphical
storytelling, marrying a sequential narrative, able to inculcate its
reader without a single word, with an art deco élan and assiduous
The written narrative accompanying the book's spellbinding panels,
however, is where artist/writer Wagner blunders. That narrative is
obscenely tumescent, even too hefty, dry, and uninteresting for its
fictional guise of journalism. It is also impossibly complicated,
breezing through Hunter's convoluted origins and subsequent career as
the criminal mastermind Grendel to an endpoint that will either find you
confused, apathetic, inadvertently snoozing, or a bit of all three.
If you do pick up Grendel Omnibus, Vol. 1: Hunter Rose, it is worth
glossing over these pages for the artistic tour de force on display, but
the bloated reading experience itself might just spoil your appetite
for more Hunter Rose.
The next part of this piecewise review will cover Grendel: Black, White, and Red, a series of vignettes written by Wagner and illustrated by a bevy of the industry's best artists.