‘Shadow/Grendel’ #1 Is a Fine Example of the Noir Style

GrendelVShadow

Title: Grendel Vs. The Shadow
Publisher: Dark Horse
Written/Illustrated by: Matt Wagner
Colors by: Brennan Wagner

     Matt Wagner’s noir style villain Grendel has returned, and penned by the man himself! Wagner, who has in recent years completed runs on Dynamite’s Zorro and Green Hornet series, brings his classic baddie back in time to the pulp-novel settings of 1930’s New York. Hunter Rose, Grendel’s alter ego, has added to his collection of rare artifacts an urn once in the possession of the vile Shaiwan Khan. Inside the urn is an ancient scroll that, when read aloud, sends Rose back to the 1930’s. Without missing a beat, Rose begins to set up shop in New York’s seedy underworld.

     While Grendel’s forked staff is cutting a roseate path through the five families, The Shadow adopts his guise as Lamont Cranston. Lamont and his trusted companion Margo Lane are speculating on the end of prohibition. Once prohibition ends, he theorizes, the underworld of New York will be left exposed, waiting for a criminal mastermind to step in and take control of all the illicit operations in the city. This could spell bad news for The Shadow. With Grendel aiming to do just that, the 48 page story closes with the two legendary characters locking eyes in an alley over a pile of fresh corpses.

Grendel V ShadowWagner grew up in a household where pulp was king. By his early teens, he boasted quite a collection of Shadow works. This love of pulp manifests in all his works, and it is evident here in every panel. Though this is the first work he has drawn set in the 30’s, Wagner seems to capture the spirit of the era. From the gilded halls of the Ritz, to the elegant attire of the Cobalt Club’s illustrious attendees, each page speaks of an era when people were protected from danger by hornets, bats, and living shadows. Wagner’s art style, highlighting black and white images with splashes of red, fits both Grendel and The Shadow to perfection, so that the characters stand out against their backdrops. With this first issue, Wagner has set up a series that will definitely be a treat for pulp fans.

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