(Comic) book review: Grendel


Friends, I have a book recommendation. Okay, not a “book.” It’s more of a picture book. Okay, not even that. It’s a comic.

Matt Wagner’s “Grendel” is a comic book filled with color, gore and adventure. If you don’t have any context, PLEASE allow me to explain. 

Grendel is the demon from hell that a character long ago, known as Beowulf, slays to save townspeople and their king. It’s an unbelievably old epic poem with no known author, and no one really knows how it survived except for in a single manuscript known as the Nowell Codex. 

Really, that’s all the information you need. I could go into deep detail about this manuscript, but let’s face it: no one really wants to know more about Beowulf than they have to.

Because this comic isn’t about Beowulf. It’s about Grendel. Obviously. And let me tell you, I have never loved a villain more than I love this man. 

There’s something personal in creating a character from another fictional character. It takes a lot of time, dedication and creativity to make something that was already created into a whole new person.

Wagner, through his writing, has made Grendel an empathetic, struggling character in this version. I love that he made him “human,” which in itself is a personification and literal accomplishment of the original fictional character.

Instead of a flying demon, Grendel is a flying ninja who knows how to fence extremely well. And through a series of flashbacks and forward glances, Wagner tells the story of the ninja and his life.   

Nothing at all like the original, Grendel starts as a small boy who lived an average life. His parents were nothing special, and he craved to be something more; something bigger than he was.

He picked up fencing when he was a little older, and trained to compete in a world fencing match. It was there that he met the love of his life.

Then, as things always do in adventure films and books, sh-t hit the fan. And Grendel was left alone and miserable with a broken heart.

That is how he became a super ninja assassin who kills big-name people quietly. He’s hired to do a job and does it extremely effectively.

“Grendel” is a comic series, where each collection has a different story, or multitude of stories, within the pages. Wagner has done an excellent job of not only making a villain a relatable character, but allowing a previous piece of history to come to light in a different way.

I hope that I’ve enticed you enough to read this comic. Holland-Terrell has the first one available. As for the rest, well, that’s a quest you’ll have to complete on your own.