Grendel vs. The Shadow #2 Review

Posted October 2, 2014 by Ben Ecker in Comic Books

Written by: Matt Wagner

Art by: Matt Wagner

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Matt Wagner excels at pulp. While other authors have gone down the road of making use of the tropes-modernizing it, using it ironically, sticking elements of it in different genres-Wagner comes across as though he’s traveled to modern times from the era in which it was birthed. Having recently explored the origins of one of pulp fiction’s most notable characters in The Shadow: Year One, Wagner has decided to go all out, using convenient time travel to bring his own best known creation, Grendel, into the world of The Shadow.

After spending a lot of time establishing the status quo in his first chapter, this issue starts off by kicking things into high gear as Grendel and The Shadow finally come face to face. Wagner has, so far, presented both characters as flawless individuals, but the way that he brings them to a draw in this particular fight makes for a riveting confrontation. The bulk of the issue follows Lamont Cranston as he attempts to discover Grendel’s true identity and Hunter Rose working his way to the top of the criminal underworld while masked and to the top of the New York literary scene while unmasked. There is a side story building regarding Sofia, the daughter of one of the crime bosses, but how this fits into the overall narrative still remains to be seen.

Wagner’s writing, as I mentioned at the beginning of this review, is pure pulp. His gangsters sound exactly like the cliches, His Shadow is dramatic, Grendel is an egomaniac. If you come to this series looking for realistic, modern dialogue, well, you’re in the wrong place. The downside to this old school writing is that there are still too many scenes that only serve to provide expository dialogue. The book comes alive when Cranston or Rose are on the page, but the pages spent on the gangsters of the book tend to drag. In general, with the higher page count, the book does feel like it should be farther along by now.

As with his writing, Wagner’s art seems tailor made for the subject matter. He is constantly including small touches, such as film noir shadows and art deco architecture, and his characters look like modern iterations of old Detective Comics and Dick Tracy. These elements do an amazing job of engrossing the reader in the world and preventing the anachronistic dialogue from being a stumbling block.

The narrative conceit that’s brought about this pairing was kind of ridiculous, but I’m glad that Wagner took advantage of some timey wimey stuff to get these characters to face off. It’s a match made in the dark, seedy underbelly of old New York.

About the Author

Ben Ecker

Recent grad, in Sacramento, California. Into comics, music, films (especially of the horror variety), books, and long walks on the beach.