Grendel has haunted me for a long time. I had seen a picture of him sometime in my youth and his costume always stood out to me. Somewhere along the line it must have been shoved out of my brain when I acquired some other meaningless knowledge. However, perusing Amazon a few weeks ago they recommended a Grendel book to me. It was the first time I had seen that costume in 2 decades. I immediately researched everything I could about this Grendel character and decided to get the original book. Might as well start at the beginning, right?
“Devil By The Deed” written and drawn by Matt Wager is a collection with the short pieces that were originally the back up feature for his main comic, Mage. This was one of the most unique and interesting reads I’ve had in a while. It wasn’t necessarily the story either (more on that later though). The book contains zero dialogue, not one thought or dialogue bubble. The tale is from the past being regaled to us in the current day via a true book about the events. The art while a little too manga influenced for me was masterfully laid out. Nothing about it was traditional, everything was done in a way that gave it a very cinematic feel. The thematic use of color is also very interesting. It’s a dark book with lots of black but also dark pink and blue and some strong golden borders. Which are always designed in a very ornate art deco way. Subsequent printings have changed the color scheme to only three colors, black, grey and red. Precious little of the original coloring has made its way onto the internet. Even the coloring of the below pictures while close to the original have been altered.
What about the plot? Well wunderkind Eddie excels at anything he does. Everything comes to him so incredibly easily that it all feels so meaningless to him. He becomes a world class fencer and at the age of 14 starts dating someone twice his age. When his lover dies unexpectedly he decides to reinvent himself as a rich, affluent author and socialite named Hunter Rose but also as Grendel, costumed crime lord and assassin. Think the perpetual suaveness of James Bond and Kingpin’s far reaching criminal influence wrapped up in a cold blooded precision killer. Grendel easily becomes one of the most feared and respected assassins in the criminal underground. He is perpetually stalked by Argent who (bear with me…) is a blood thirsty Native American Man Wolf who has lived for hundreds of years. (He also seems like he’d make an excellent drinking buddy for Wolverine). Granted, it may seem a little weird especially since everything else in the book tends to be realistic, but I assure you it works. Sadly his background is never really explored.
Hunter Rose poisons and kills a gangster he is close with and adopts his daughter. This begins a series of events that while very interesting, if I told you would absolutely make reading the story pointless. So I’ll (as I usually do) keep this review spoiler free.
It’s truly a bizarre tale where right and wrong and good and evil are blurred to the point that it’s left for the reader to decide. “Devil By The Deed” is deceptively simple and unlike anything I’ve ever read. I was disappointed when I found out the Grendel ongoing series did not deal with with Hunter Rose (there is a succession of Grendels in the future). In fact, very few stories deal with the debonair Hunter Rose version of Grendel but “Devil By The Deed” is most definitely worth checking out.
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