The twisted saga of Hunter Rose’s legacy carries on in this volume, telling the story of Hunter’s grand-daughter Christine Spar and the lives she inadvertently shatters. The collection starts off with the story “Devil’s Child” which expands upon Hunter’s adopted daughter Stacy Palumbo’s time in the psych ward after his passing. My first thoughts when reading it was how jarring it was to see a full color Grendel comic. The Hunter Rose stories were trademarked in three colors: red, white, and black. That has been left behind in these stories and the results is a mixed bag. In this one, however, the choice works. It’s a moody, claustrophobic tale that is probably the most disturbing Grendel story.
Poor Stacy can’t catch a break. Grendel is full of break the cutie moments with her and this is the pinnacle of them. She falls in love at a young age with her therapist and marries him when she comes of age. As is told in Devil by the Deed, he rapes her on their wedding night and then kills himself. Devi’s Child goes into a bit more murky waters here by insinuating that Stacy isn’t that innocent when their courtship begins (though she is of course still a child and there is no excuse for his behavior as an adult and a mental health professional). At the risk of getting into spoilers, the insinuation does make sense when you consider she learned to be a master manipulator from her adopted father, whose death she orchestrated. Even Hunter complimented her during his dying words saying she learned her lessons well, and while he was dying, she fixed herself milk and cookies before going to bed.
The offspring of their encounter is given away to foster parents and comes back into Stacy’s life shortly before Stacy’s passing.. Christine Spar enters her mother’s life at first wanting to get to know her. But then we see Spar prying into her mother’s life to get a hold of the story of Hunter Rose. Spar already has a skunk spot like Hunter, fore-shadowing her fate. She finally convinces her mother to turn over the hidden diaries of Rose before poor Stacy finally dies a sad and lonely death.
Devil’s Legacy focuses on Spar and her life after writing Devil by the Deed. I did not like this story or the artwork and found it disappointing after having loved everything Grendel up until this point. That isn’t to say it’s terrible, or not worth reading, but everything about it screams “that late-80s comic”. We’ve got flying cars, aliens in diners, terrible fashion sense, a nihilistic anti-heroine, and garish full-color art work. Anyways, the story finds Spar as a single mother finding new found success after her book Devil by the Deed becomes a best seller. She and her son go to a Kabuki theater show which stars the famous Tujiro XIV. After the show, Spars son disappears and it turns out he was kidnapped. Spar sets out to find her son by donning the Grendel persona and heading out for revenge. Along the way she falls in love with Brian Li Sung, one of Tujiro’s stage hands, and she crosses paths with police officer Wiggns (who has a cybernetic eye which works as a lie detector). Sensing the return of Grendel, Hunter’s nemesis Argent steps out of the shadows to join the fight as well. And is always the case in a Grendel tale, pretty much everyone’s life ends up ruined. It was fun seeing a female Grendel, but would have enjoyed it more if it was not drawn like every other comic book in existence at the time and if the dialogue was sharper. Seeing Spar unleash her wrath was awesome but it didn’t happen enough for my liking. It also hurts that Spar looks like a bull-dyke, but she fills out the Grendel suit well.
The next story is probably my favorite. The Devil Inside finds Brian Li Sung after the events of Devil’s Legacy alone in New York. Li Sung finds his mental state detoriating as he hates his co-workers at the playhouse he works at and the city he is forced to stay in due to Wiggins on-going investigation of Grendel. The stress of the new living environment begins to bear down on him. Li Sung says about his situation: “Inside and out, this city seems to be arguing with itself. I can’t see the issue and so am alone — among millions”. Li Sung decides the only way to remedy the situation is to become the next Grendel. This story has a very gritty and dark aesthetic. It reminds me of Taxi Driver mixed with William Lustig’s Maniac. Li Sung chronicles his journey into the abyss through his own diary which show how pathetic and sad he is. It reveals that the Grendel entity is a form of demonic possession, something that was only hinted at before. I liked the design of the stich-work Grendel mask Li Sung wears in this and found the story a drastic improvement over the previous one.
The next two stories are a couple Hunter Rose tales. It was good to see Hunter again. The first story focuses on a police detective named Polk who is investigating a couple corrupt cops and discovers a Hitchcock-ian plot of an elderly diamond mogul being fixed out of his will by one of his twin children. The mogul has dealings with Grendel and one (or both) of the twins are trying to make it look like their father is pulling a double deal on the devil in order to get him killed so the will can be theirs. The matter is resolved in typical Grendel fashion. Overall, I felt this story to be a little too long in the tooth and found the pages to be too overwhelming at times. It’s formatted in 25 square panels per page, so it seems a lot longer than it actually is and I found it hard to get into.
The next Grendel Tale focuses an informant named Nunzio, who was briefly mentioned in Devil by the Deed. His role in the humiliation of Argent is expanded upon and ends in typical Grendel fashion. The format is done a little weird, but not quite as much as it was with the previous Grendel Tale and thankfully it’s not nearly as long.
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