Johnny Bullet
Matt Wagner: Grendel Archives
By Leroy Douresseaux

Jul 25, 2007 - 10:04

Publisher(s): Dark Horse Comics
Writer(s): Matt Wagner
Penciller(s): Matt Wagner
Cover Artist(s): Matt Wagner
ISBN: 978-1-59307-729-7



For over two decades fans of Matt Wagner and the original incarnation of his signature character, Grendel, have begged Wagner to reprint the character’s early adventures, published from 1982-1984.  This year Dark Horse Comics and Wagner finally gave lovers of the Hunter Rose incarnation of Grendel what they wanted.  Grendel Archives reprints the first-ever Grendel story from Primer #2 and the subsequent Grendel #1-3, which were all originally published by the now-defunct Comico the Comic Company.

In those comics, Hunter Rose was, by day, a successful novelist.  By night Rose became the unstoppable assassin, Grendel.  He led a criminal empire that he’d built by deposing former collaborators and rivals.  His only equal was the mysterious wolf man (man-wolf) Argent.  Right in the middle of the Grendel/Argent story, however, Wagner moved onto other things, but he did return to Grendel when he rewrote, reconfigured, and redrew the Hunter Rose saga as the 1986 graphic novel, Grendel: Devil by the Deed (which had an introduction by Alan Moore).

THE LOWDOWN:  The original black and white Grendel comics were gloriously amateur affairs, featuring a raw, unprofessional Matt Wagner.  Primer #2 and the first three issues of the Comico Grendel were the kind of comics that would likely not find a publisher today, and would end up being published by Comixpress or a similar vanity press.  That’s not necessarily a good thing.  Perhaps, those comics would be too unpolished for today’s comics publishers, but in the early Grendel comics, a brilliant comic book creator was feeling his way.

Reading the early Grendel comics today, I feel the same as I did when I first encountered them in the 1980’s.  There’s something there.  I don’t know what “it” is, but I feel it as strongly today as I did then.  Grendel Archives is a collection of the raw ingredients that built a unique comic book character, and those ingredients were produced by a budding iconoclast on the road to being a remarkable talent.

FOR READERS OF:  Although Matt Wagner provides a new painted cover for this hardcover collection (which doesn’t come with a dust jacket), Grendel Archives is mostly no-frills.  It’s as if Dark Horse took these old comics and simply placed them between stiff cardboard covers.  So Grendel Archives is for the Grendel fan who wanted to just finally read the early Hunter Rose/Grendel tales.


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