Grendel: Devil Child

by Alan Rapp on June 11, 2008

in Comics

“I always felt safe in the arms of the devil.”

Okay, this one’s not for everybody.  This bleak look at the life of a girl raised by a serial killer, ushered in an out of psychiatric hospitals, abused by a doctor she believed loved her, and mother to a legacy of Grendel, isn’t what one would call a happy tale.  Now available in a new hardcover collection from Dark Horse Comics, it is however worth a look.

Grendel: Devil Child takes a look at one of the most important transitionary characters of Matt Wagner‘s Grendel storyline.

The story follows the tragic life of young Stacy Palumbo, the adopted daughter who turned on Hunter Rose after learning of nighttime activities as the original Grendel.  Stacy spends the entire length of this tale in and out of psychiatric institutes, never quite coming to grips with that fateful night she purposely sent Grendel and Argent to their doom.

She finds short moments of happiness by marrying one of her doctors only to find herself trapped in an abusive marriage at the hands of someone she had come to trust.  The marriage does yield a child, Christine Spar who would become obsessed with Grendel and even carry on his name.

What we’ve got here is a Grendel story without Grendel.  What we have instead is one hell of a depressing character piece about a life destroyed by Grendel’s legacy, and the events which led to that legacy being passed on to future generations.  The storytelling, from Stacy’s point of view is detached and dispassionate, and Tim Sale’s art is, well, Sale’s art.  I couldn’t believe how much the look of this reminded me of Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: Dark Victory (looks of some of the minor characters especially seem to be taken directly from Sale’s work in Gotham).  Although the look is at times brighter than a Grendel book should be, it also brings a layout and use of shadow which is quite good, especially in flashback scenes taken from Stacy’s memory.

Creating a story where the series’ main character never appears is a bit of a challenge.  Although bleak and depressing Shutz and Sale capture the life of an important character in Grendel history and give us a harsh look at a woman’s life whose best relationship, of her entire life, was being the adopted daughter of a serial killer.  This new hardcover edition collects the tale, though sadly without any extras or even a simple introduction, but to fans of Wagner’s iconic figure it’s worth adding to your collection.

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