Matt Wagner wraps up his 3-issue crossover between the old and the new interestingly enough by exploring vastly different takes on the nature of love and betrayal and, in doing so, provides a unique humanizing aspect to the obsessions that drive both. Rich with pulpy goodness, GVTS could have been pulled straight from the pages of a Black Mask anthology, with two powerful forces, so focused on each other’s demise, they’re oblivious to the secrets swirling around them.
While Grendel had sworn never to love again following the loss of his heart to fencer Jocasta Rose, he finds his match in Sophia Valenti, daughter of the mob boss Grendel has recently supplanted. While on the other side of the coin, Lamont Crantson’s inattention to his faithful sidekick Margo Lane may be sending her away, despite her every desire to stay. And, when these two powerful, arrogant forces finally confront one another, blood will be spilled.
In pulling this story to its thrilling, crash-bang climax, Wagner manages to inject a surprising humanity into both Grendel and the Shadow, but with polarizing results, some of which reverberate and link in nicely to the Hunter Rose Grendel saga (originally told in Devil By the Deed and more recently fleshed out in The Grendel Saga, Volume 1). As I’ve said before, Wagner excels at this period storytelling, keeping the action tense and crisp while managing to keep his hero and anti-hero from descending into slapstick or parody. His layouts (colored by talented son Brennan Wagner) sizzle and pop and compel the reader with its obvious and reverent references to classic Golden Age books.
If you’ve been following the Grendel saga or Wagner's recent ten-issue stand on the Shadow, you won’t be disappointed by this story. And, if you haven’t read the others, do yourself a favor and pick them up. It will only make this work so much richer.
“I am not of this time! I embody a future that blossoms with evil, the likes of which you cannot imagine! Despite your pathetic crusade . . . the “weed of crime” yet flourishes! Its bitter fruit has found its ultimate harvest . . . in ME!”
Verdict: FIVE Mystic, Backwards Mandarin Spells out of Five