Review – Matt Wagner’s Grendel Tales Omnibus Volume 1 TPB (Dark Horse)

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer(s): Steve Seagle, James Robinson, Rob Walton, Darko Macan
Artist(s): Rob Walton, Ho Che Anderson, Teddy H. Kristiansen, Paul Grist, Edvin Biukovic
Colorist(s): Teddy H. Kristiansen, Bernie Mireault, Kathryn Delaney, Matthew Hollingsworth
Release Date: 2nd August 2017

Ah, Grendel.

It’s a title that draws nonplussed looks from the uninitiated and wry, knowing smiles and fulsome praise from fans of a certain vintage. Matt Wagner’s genre-bending sci-fi epic started life as somewhat of a Batman clone, telling the tale of arch criminal mastermind and novelist Hunter Rose, before mutating into a millennia-spanning treatise on the nature of power, loss, war, corruption and destiny.

Whilst creators like Alan Moore, Frank Miller and Art Spiegelman are rightly credited with breaking new ground with their various works in the ’80s, Wagner’s tale never seemed to generate quite the same level as love amongst mainstream audiences. But, for me, it is one of the great, unsung works of the period comparable to any of those master’s stories.

The rich mythology Wagner created gives a strong foundation to the stories contained within, with a scope sprawling enough to allow a plethora of creators to tell tales dealing with everything from the horrors of war to religious obsession to morality and politics. This isn’t to say that these stories are ponderous reads – far from it – as these themes are enveloped in fast-paced, thrilling tales full of spectacle, action and violence and populated by vicious marauding bikers, merciless killers and world-weary heroes.

While all the stories herein are brilliant, the standout tale here is undoubtedly ‘Devils and Deaths’ by Darko Makan and the much-missed Edvin Biukovic. Written when their own country was being ravaged by a civil war, their story deals with these horrors in a dark, uncompromising way as a dying soldier makes one last effort to atone for the sins of his past. It’s a masterclass with a truly heart-breaking denouement that stays with you for days afterwards.

When I picked this for review this week I did warn our wonderful head-honcho Ceej that it would probably contain no small amount of gushing, but I hope I’ve said enough to encourage more folks to check out this masterpiece. Dark Horse deserve all the plaudits going for repackaging these in affordable volumes for the next generation. If you only pick up one trade this week, make it this one.

You won’t regret it.


Rating: 5/5.

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downsThe writer of this piece was: Chris Downs
Chris Tweets from @ChrisDownsy

3 Comments on Review – Matt Wagner’s Grendel Tales Omnibus Volume 1 TPB (Dark Horse)

  1. Apologies, Chris. Didn’t mean to speak past you to the fictional (or, at least absent) writer/illustrator themselves. Hard to find fellow aficionados of this eccentric type of story-telling. And what characters (and in what arcs) have impassioned you the most?
    Personally, Hunter Rose/Grendel is not a hero anyone should look up to, yet, in the style of the ancient tragedy he is hard to top. After Devil by the Deed in it’s stained-glass technique , then Christine Spar keeping notes as a journalist thru ought the dynamically Asian-esque tour de force of the Pander bros artwork on 14 issues…I, at times, sided with Anastasia, Christine, Hunter, and then (shockingly) I began to develop a strong admiration for Wiggins and even the Wolf himself: Argent (or whatever creature he really is)…hope you get time to jot me a brief reply, man.. demonstration, scholio, corollarium….et carter 081117

  2. Mr. Wagner.
    You are keeping your word.
    We had a deal , and for many years you kept crafting the stories, the innovative (yet not distractingly so) story-telling. The artwork and ink like no other, and when allowing artist that flew in the face of the pop-art de jour, that artwork emblazoned itself with enduringly fresh immortality (the Pander -Brothers terrify to this day).
    True, There was a panel or two scattered through ought where (especially during the techno-noir’ narrative) where our protagonist staring straight-up, smoking his cig doesn’t keep us readers from staring straight down at the dame drawing an enormous chest full of smoke from her own smoke ..but, hey..with illustrated comic-books the reader has a choice to look or not to look…As a long time fan of writing and art, well done…et carter 080917

    • Thanks for the comments, It!!

      Hard to pick a favourite from the run as the series changes and morphs so often but I really love the Eppy Thatcher and Grendel Prime runs if I had to choose a favourite with a gun to my temple.

      I also love how morally-suspect a lot of the characters are, which speaks to Grendel’s corrupting influence on all who become, shall we say, infected.

      I do love the work done by other creators outside of Wagner’s main universe a lot though…

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