Grendel: Behold the Devil
Written & Illustrated by Matt Wagner
Lettered by Tom Orzechowski
Published by Dark Horse Comics
The latest book in Matt Wagner’s Grendel series is something of a homecoming. Wagner has revisited the series’ original protagonist Hunter Rose several times, notably in the Black, White and Red miniseries (and the Red, White and Black sequel), but in those instances, Wagner collaborated with other illustrators on short stories, each illuminating a tiny corner of Hunter Rose’s world and the Grendel milieu.
In Behold the Devil, Wagner takes up the art chores himself, drawing Hunter for the first time in a long while. He’s also telling a long-form story – this book first serialized in eight chapters – that promises to give readers a meatier look into Hunter Rose’s character.
On one hand, the book is smartly written and very well drawn. Wagner’s a master comic artist, witnessed in his iconic character designs and startling layouts. His ability to capture chaos or the balletic ebb and flow of a beautifully choreographed fight sequence is nearly unparalleled. Few artists can capture a dramatic beat as powerfully as Wagner, and fewer still can add strong character acting to the mix.
As for the story – taken on its own, Behold the Devil is compelling, a layered mystery, with plenty to keep readers guessing and strong character beats. On the other hand, few of the character beats haven’t been covered in previous Grendel stories. Behold the Devil is for hardcore Grendel fans (like me) who enjoy seeing Wagner’s talents on display or for neophyte Grendel readers. For casual Grendel readers, there’s not necessarily much new here. Behold the Devil’s still a good story, but I think I’d like to see Wagner creating something from whole cloth rather than revisiting Hunter at this point.