Writer: Matt Wagner
Artist: Tim Sale
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Review by: John Gustafson
Originally released in 1989 and concluded in 1990, Grendel: Devil’s Reign is notable not only as being Tim Sale’s first major comic book work, but also as the first time the seven-issue series has been compiled in a single book.
Interested parties, without prior experience of earlier Grendel issues or collections, will find this semi-self-contained book approachable, yet most of the defining character moments and set-up elements will fly right over their heads and lack the proper impact and storytelling necessary to glean the larger overarching story. Devil’s Reign relies heavily on plot elements from the preceding arc God and the Devil, which shapes the platform from which the story begins and ends.
Devil’s Reign takes place in the year 2530 after the downfall of the Vatican Quest, with the world essentially being run by world powers that not only govern, but operate more like corporate broadcasting networks – very futuristic! Orion Assante, the man now in charge of the super nation of Calmerica (North America, Canada, South America and Australia), is on a quest to not only unite the world, but also bring peace to all the lands. Naturally, the remaining super powers (Japan, China and Africa) see things differently, and Orion, who is now nicknamed “Grendel,” utilizes propaganda broadcasts through the network “Orion’s Sword” and the national police force/army.
If that weren’t enough, a complementary story of vampires separates each chapter. Though vampires are usually interesting characters in any medium, these creatures of the night are so incredibly boring and worthless in their ineptitude and have no bearing on the main story in Grendel. Everything about the vampires and their exiled imprisonment lacks relevance and impact.
The book’s presentation is also questionable. The majority of the story – and certainly the most important parts – takes place in paragraph form. As for the illustrations and panels, the artwork is bland and simplistic, featuring talking heads and broadcast stills. While the story of Orion and associated parties is well constructed, the execution is underwhelming for the grandiose tale Matt Wagner spins.
At the end of the day, Devil’s Reign is an integral part to the larger Grendel story and should not be missed by fans of Wagner and/or the character/story. Just as God and the Devil prepped Devil’s Reign, Devil’s Reign sets up War Child.
For more info, www.darkhorse.com