Issue #3 of Grendel: Devil’s Odyssey hit bookstore shelves this week, continuing Dark Horse’s eight issue miniseries. After an absence of almost two decades, series creator, writer, and artist Matt Wagner returns to the story of the cyborg warrior Grendel Prime, this time with his son Brennan Wagner on board as colorist.
The beginning of this third installment finds our anti-hero waking from a weakened state and drained of all his energy for a few days after being forced to defend himself and his mission by use of a massive flare-burst on the planet Gyk. Accompanied by the PDA probe droid-head Sigma-7, or “Siggy” as she prefers to be called, Grendel Prime makes his way to the next potential world with the DNA of the first Khan, his two wives and two sisters he has been charged with to repopulate humanity. The two arrive at the coordinates to discover a frozen ice planet and a seemingly abandoned sprawling city. Upon investigation of the city, they find giant beings encased in ice in what appears to be a mass cryosleep.
Suddenly, three of these beings appear before them and exclaim that they are the custodians of a quadrant of the city of Puntra on the Planet Qryntiti, and that due to a rather large population and a limited amount of resources, only a select number are allowed to be unfrozen and provided for at a specific time. This unique form of self-preservation and population control not only applies to the indigenous life-forms, but also to any offworlders that visit. This is revealed after Sigma-7 inquires about the others that have come before them and her and Grendel Prime are then escorted to a chamber housing all of the frozen offworlders, seemingly about to suffer the same fate, as they are informed that “all must take their turn under the ice.”
This is a great issue in what is turning out to be a magnificent limited series with comic legend Matt Wagner back at the helm, continuing the tale of Grendel Prime after nearly two decades. The story so far has been nothing short of masterful and as with other past stories of characters possessed by the spirit of Grendel, it starts off with a fresh spin. For the first time, it takes the story out into the galaxy rather than being solely Earth-bound. Wagner has an underlying irony to the entire situation with Grendel who has shut himself off from humanity and shunned human society for quite some time, now being charged under obligation to his creator Grendel Khan Orion Asante’s legacy with its future. Not only must he accept this charge, but he must do so without any violent incursions or actions towards any other life-forms with the exception of a threat to himself or to his mission. This goes against his very nature as a warrior and assassin, and every world that they have encountered with sentient life thus far has been hostile, forcing Grendel to resort to violence as much as he tries to resist and honor his charge.
The world and life forms in this issue are no different, and not soon after making the first contact Grendel Prime finds himself in a situation of out of the frying pan and into the fire, or ice in this case. There is also a freshness to the story in the science fiction space adventure aspect, as well as some brilliant comical moments with the interactions between Grendel Prime and Sigma-7. Wagner also slips in some not so subtle perversions such as the phallic-looking spacecraft they use to travel in seeding the universe with the first Khan’s DNA.
Wagner’s artwork on this series is light years beyond his previous works with this character and title. Whether it be the honing of his craft during the rather large length of time since his last Grendel series or the inspiration of a science fiction fantasy world, Wagner’s images take the Grendel-verse into a fantastic realm of eye-popping and imaginative visuals, with strange and bizarrely unique characters for Grendel Prime and Sigma-7 to interact with along this Devil’s Odyssey. Not only does this title showcase Wagner’s masterful art and attention to detail, but it also amplifies it on a cosmic scale, with this third issue being no exception. The use of color by Brennan Wagner seals the deal with beautiful and vibrant colors that complement the amazing images, bringing the whole thing to life.
Not only is this an amazing series for the die-hard Grendel fans, but it is also a wonderfully accessible way for new readers to be introduced to the mysterious and exciting story of the Spirit of Grendel. I highly recommended this issue and series to anyone looking for a fresh spin on the Grendel-verse with an exciting science fiction epic full of humor, action, and narrative depth.