Grendel Omnibus Volume 4
The Grendel universe is a deep and lush one, filled with so much nuance and well woven mythos, that the world can be daunting to say the least. This volume in particular carries a bit of weight to it, and it is enthralling, but as much as it is a jumping on point, it is obvious there have been miles of road laid out before we hit this point.
This volume, omnibus, tome, BRICK of a book, has a veritable circus of talent and voices interwoven throughout the work, and as maddeningly sporadic as each voice is, the collected work manages to gel together in the sort of way that would make Lewis Carol proud.
It begins with War Child, written by creator Matt Wagner, and penciled magnificently by Patrick McEown. It is the culmination of the Grendel world, as the Rome-like empire built in the image of the great Grendal Khan (Ceasar), has begun to crack and crumble under the care of its new regent. The vast empire rests on the brink of destruction, as various clans of Grendel gnash their teeth at one another in a primitive attempt to establish dominance in a withering world order.
Wagner manages to craft a believable world, built upon reasonable woes, infused with a bit of science fiction, and built upon a peculiar warrior caste-system. To be honest, having no real knowledge of the universe, this book is an intimidating jumping on point, but it manages to breathe so well on its own that, if you are able to suppress lingering curiosity, you could run through this book as a stand alone with little worry. That being said, War Child has made me curious, and I will be back tracking through Wagner’s works, because I sincerely want to know how this world came to this point. I want to see the fleshed out mythos painted before my eyes.
I had a few books I intended to review this week, but it was all held up by the rather lengthy follow-up narrative, written by Greg Rucka. It is actually a novella, with contributing images done by Wagner, and it is a pretty thick read. I honestly found myself a bit sucker punched, not expecting a stretch of text in the midst of this damn brick of a book. That being said, it is a fine, if not pulpy, read.
Rucka creates a brutal follow-up tale narrating the final demise of the Grendel empire, and the lives of key characters post-Grendel empowerment. It is a gritty narrative, and at times both raunchy and gory, so if you have a frail constitution, it might be best you skip the work.
It is a mighty contribution, and though I was hoping for a bit more art from Mr. Wagner, the book manages to hold its own quite well, and feels like a perfect wrap-up to the Grendel universe.
That being said, there are following bits of work, and they feel, at best, like garbled babblings tacked on to the end of a great tale in an effort to stretch out the work. From a purely visual standing, all the remaining works of the omnibus are fantastic, but the writing is so rambling and erratic that it feels like it detracts a bit more than it adds. It could have ended with the novella by Rucka and it would have felt complete. What the final few stories do contribute, however, is how sad and ridiculous the world becomes when it’s almighty dictator has become a relic of the past.
In summation, it is a fantastic Omnibus, but it will be time consuming. The first 80% is masterfully crafted in oration and visual presentation. The last few books feel week on narration, and the art resonates fairly well, but not well enough to stave off the poor writing. All in all a strong read worth the time, but still a daunting jumping on point.
3 ½ out of 5.