Matt Wagner spares little time joining his two protagonists into battle as they push each other to the limits. Will Wagner be able to do the same for this second installment of Grendel vs. The Shadow? Is it good?
Grendel vs. The Shadow #2 (Dark Horse Comics)
The Shadow and Grendel are on full display as each pulls out all their tricks in an attempt to subdue the other. The battle is intense, providing a spectacle of awe for both as they match up against an opponent who is their equal. Wagner also provides plenty of suspense, allowing the reader to believe it could all be over in just the second book, with both Grendel and The Shadow potentially claiming victory. Complementing Wagner’s artwork are excellent bits of writing that focus on Grendel’s inner thoughts as his tone changes from cocky arrogance to surprise and eventually respect. Letterer Michael Heisler does an outstanding job with the sound effects and continues to allow the reader to clearly identify between Grendel’s inner thoughts, his speech, and The Shadow’s speech. There is one panel where The Shadow disarms Grendel by kicking his double-bladed spear from his hand; Heisler places a giant “WAM” in the center of the panel emphasizing the force and power of the blow to not only disarm Grendel, but send him flying.
Following this absolutely thrilling fight scene Wagner transitions from a physical conflict to a strategic one. Grendel continues his conquest of the Five Families leaving Lamont Cranston a step behind. Grendel’s sheer brutality and strategic genius have Cranston believing, as Grendel did during their extraordinary battle, he might be “the deadliest foe” he has ever faced. And is Grendel ever deadly. Wagner creates a marvelous display of power and brutality during a meeting of the Five Families. He puts his cards on the table and dares anyone to challenge him. The artwork for this scene is amazing. Wagner has Grendel in an extremely dominating position, head and shoulders above the other bosses with one hand clenched at his side and the other out-stretched demanding loyalty. It is a truly powerful panel depicting why he is the deadliest foe Lamont Cranston will face.
Wagner’s artwork continues to amaze throughout the book. The time period creations like the microphone Hunter Rose is speaking into and the taxi cab The Shadow rides to the Sanctum add extra depth to the world. Colorist Brennan Wagner amplifies this effect with his use of lighting from the buildings, giving the world an almost spooky atmosphere. These touches allow the reader to dive completely into the story. However, Wagner still struggles when depicting close-ups of Sofia and Margo.
Wagner also takes a detour from our two main protagonists twice when he focuses on Sofia and her friend Frannie. This side-story seems irrelevant and superfluous, although it does touch on the very prevalent issue of domestic abuse.
Is It Good?
Grendel vs. The Shadow #2 is a brilliant combination of artwork and writing that plumbs the depths of Grendel and The Shadow and pushes their abilities to the limit, both physically and mentally. Matt Wagner’s artwork is gorgeous and he creates a number of panels that evoke raw emotion from the reader; whether it is suspense, fear, shock, or love, he is able to capture all of them.