In Grendel: Behold the Devil #4-5, the Korean mob tries, and fails, to assasinate Grendel. Grendel senses an unseen, demonic presence behind this attack, so he hires a Santeria (Voodoo's sister religion) priest to figure out what devil or satanic beastie is hounding him. Meanwhile, reporter Lucas Ottoman comes closer and closer to the revelation that Grendel actually may be Hunter Rose, author and socialite.
The Obligatory Warning: nudity, dismembered bodies, vomited blood, coarse language.
These two issues should excite me as much as The Hills excites stupid people. But, I'm hesitant to dive right in and drink Wagner's (blood red) kool-aid. How is it that I don't enjoy a comic with mobsters, voodoo, zombies, and a guy with a cool spear? Because, periodically, the writing in Behold the Devil crosses the line from subtly dark into emo kid's journal.
As Grendel julienne-slices a bunch of zombies, he laments that his undead victims "know neither fear nor despair...their bodies bear litle similarity to the living...in fact, this is almost masturbation. Boring and self-indulgent." Um, wow. I could go on about how uncomfortable the above sentiments make me, but I'll instead remind Mr. Wagner, and all the Grendel fans out there, that generic prescriptions are now only 4$ at Wal-Mart. That includes anti-depressants.
Admittedly, some elements of Grendel are intricate and well-done. Matt Wagner has managed to write and draw a noir-esque crime comic that doesn't sound like a rip-off of Frank Miller's Sin City. Most noir-esque comics do. At the same time, some elements are handled in a clunky, cliche style that would make the worst pulp-hack cringe. A femme fatale detective who's as good in bed as she is on the shooting range? Please. A character like that doesn't require imagination to dream up. There are thirteen-year-old kids daydreaming similar characters, right now, in the middle of seventh-period math.
Cue "Night on Bald Mountain."
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention letterer Tom Orzechowski's beautiful cursive script. Orzechowski writes all of Grendel's internal monologue in a mock-Palmer style, and the flawless handwriting heightens the sense of Grendel's sophisticated savagery.
Worth the money? Not this time.