My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Another one of my favorites that I’m finally getting around to doing a proper review for. This edition of Batman/Grendel collects both of the two prior Batman/Grendel crossovers in one pleasantly satisfying package. After writing (and drawing) a couple of Batman books before, Matt Wagner finally got a chance to introduce his creator owned property to the one and only Dark Knight and I loved it.
The first half of the collection is set earlier in Batman’s career (sans Robin) shortly after Year One and is probably my favorite of the pair. The Hunter Rose iteration of the Grendel character is the one that I was first interested by and he truly fits in well with the rest of Batman’s rogues’ gallery. Having read all of Wagner’s previous Grendel stuff, I had a leg up in regards to his motivations and personality. Probably not required, but it certainly didn’t hurt having some familiarity with Hunter and his alter ego. Matt tells the story from four different perspectives in this one. The Batman/Bruce Wayne, Grendel/Hunter Rose, Rachel King (an art gallery director), and Hillary Ferrington (a book publisher’s liason). I really dug the idea of using “normal” women with previous ties to one another to tell the story from other angles. And by “normal” I mean no tight costumes, boob windows, or gratuitous ass shots. Ironically, all the shit I typically appreciate in comics. I thought it was innovative of Wagner to have the ladies mix it up with Bruce Wayne and Hunter Rose to bring everything together. And the girls were a little like the Odd Couple. Pretty much opposites that contrasted well with Bruce and Hunter.
The second half of the book is a little more of a straight forward action tale that focuses on another Grendel. Grendel Prime has returned from the future ala’ Terminator to retrieve what is considered in that time to be a holy relic. The skull of the original Grendel, Hunter Rose. Prime is a much different animal than the previous Grendel and his battle with the Dark Knight is much less a game of cat and mouse. Grendel Prime is a fuckin’ BAD ASS. Honed to a keen edge as a soldier from a war ravaged future, he presents much more of a physical challenge for Bats. Not that Bruce isn’t up to the task. Bat-gadgets galore, kids. Matt also actually wrote a Grendel prequel (Grendel: Devil Quest) to this tale for Dark Horse to give a little back story as to what leads up to Prime’s road trip to Gotham. I really love how Matt makes his character’s interactions from both stories with the Batman official cannon in his creator owned universe. He actually explains a mystery mark on the skull that had never been explained in the previous Grendel stuff. It isn’t just a “one off” like some of Batman’s other crossovers. Cool little surprise cameo at the end of this one as well.
Matt’s artwork is so good. His art-deco style lends itself well to Batman’s universe and I love his stuff. So simple and clean. I really wish he would do more. I liked the subtle change in art between to the 2 crossovers. He gave the 2nd series a noticeably more modern look that set it apart from the first half of the book.
I recommend this one to anyone that likes Wagner or any of his other Batman work (Faces, The Monster Men, The Mad Monk, or Trinity) . Grendel enthusiasts will probably get a little more out of it than someone that’s not familiar with the characters or their universe, but don’t let that stop you from checking this one out.