book review: devil’s reign

I picked up Matt Wagner’s Grendel: Devil’s Reign from the library having only read Grendel: Black White and Red before. I remembered liking it but not a lot of details. This book might not have been the best place to take up the series again.

It’s the 26th century and the plague of vampires has fractured North America. Orion I, who apparently used to be Grendel is brought in to unify the nation and [SPOILER ALERT] eventually takes over the world by blowing the nefarious Japanese off the planet. And then he’s the king of the world, has a baby boy and dies an old man.

So that’s the main story, and it’s told with the detached air of a biography. The form is very interesting: 8 panels per page and about half of them filled with text and many more as propaganda images. It’s very dense and wordy, but detached detached detached. There’s no sense of urgency to anything. Maybe I would care more if I’d read more of the previous run of the comic, or later ones to see what the aftermath of all this was, but as it was it felt like reading a biased history of a crudely stereotyped alternate world.

The other story is about the vampires who’re banished to the prison of VEGAS for the amount of history covered in the book. Because this is done in a more traditional comicbook style, it’s much less dense and more actiony than the main story. In fact I think they probably take up the same number of pages, but the density of text makes this story feel like a backup. Again, I feel like I would care more if I’d come at this book with more investment in the series.

It wasn’t bad, just not very compelling for someone reading it without previous knowledge. I wish there’d been some indication on the cover to say what volume in the series this was.

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