“Grendel Omnibus Volume 2: The Legacy” can’t match its predecessor. Where the first amazing Omnibus edition focused gorgeously and exclusively on creator Matt Wagner’s first “Grendel” character, the arch-villain Hunter Rose, this second collection focuses mostly on supporting characters and Rose’s successors. “Devil Child” shows us the cruel fate of an adult Stacy Palumbo, while “Devil’s Legacy” and “The Devil Inside” follow Christine Spar and Brian Li Sung’s turns as both heirs and victims of “Grendel’s” identity. The “Devil Tales” coda of two stories at the very end are told from the perspective of Albert Wiggins, who was first introduced in the Spar and L Sung story arcs.
There are decent stories throughout; all except the first were written by Wagner himself. And I do think a serious “Grendel” collector would need to at least read these stories to grasp the overall continuity of Wagner’s seminal work. (We see for the first time, for example, how “Grendel” is a conscious entity jumping from person to to person.)
But nearly all the stories have great pacing problems. I get the sense that Wagner wrote these during an experimental stage as a creator. There are all sorts of departures from standard comic book storytelling, in format, scripting, paneling, and point-of-view. These departures are interesting, but don’t always pay off. Some of the stories were cluttered with too much text, too many panels, or even an unnecessary speaker. (Wagner himself appears to interject as a speaker in one of the closing “Devil Tales;” a distracting kind of narration runs throughout it, in scrawled overhead text that looks like … an author’s outline?)
A few of these felt a little too long. “Devil’s Legacy,” which follows the career of Christine Spar, was a great tale, and important to the overall mythos. Yet the otherwise brilliant Wagner seems to struggle structuring it over 12 issues … it is often too slow, with unnecessary dialogue and drama, and with too much attention paid to minor plot points.
A lot of the artwork simply wasn’t my cup of tea. While Tim Sale and Teddy Kristiansen shine in the first entry, most of the following artists do not.
Ah, well. Wagner’s brilliance still shines through, particularly with the two closing stories, which he wrote and illustrated. And all of the stories themselves, with their complex themes of aggression and identity, remain some of the most unique and interesting things in comic books as a medium. This was a good book — despite its relative failings. I’d give it an 8 out of 10.