Victor Wiebe

Grendel, Kentucky: A Review

I really enjoy storytelling, and the art of storytelling, it all it’s media: my favourite songs are often those that tell stories (such as Allentown by Billy Joel), movies with great plots (one of my alltime favourite movies – ever – is The Seventh Seal), campfire stories with a storyteller and, in the arena of comics, comics that tell moving stories.

It was a really fun surprise to come across Grendel, Kentucky by new public AWA Studios. This was my first offering from AWA and, I must say, I am impressed. AWA is building an interconnected universe of creator-owned stories and characters, somewhat reminiscient of the old Thieves’ World anthologies by Robert Aspirin. I’m on to my second series now, and the quality is superb.

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Grendel, Kentucky is a “modern” retelling of the ancient Grendel story, or as modern as 1971, with a modern twist and enigmatic conclusion. The story takes place in a town called Grendel, in Kentucky (hence the title) in 1971, and begins with a man arming up for an obvious fight with… something. He arms up, gears up, and armors up with a look of determination as he looks at a cave. Obviously, there is something in there

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Next we’re introduced to the remaining protagonists of the story after a few in-story days have gone by: Denny, son of a local patriarch and master crop-grower of illegal drugs, and his step-sister Marnie, head of a nearby womens bike gang. Both of these characters, like any good protagonist, are faulty and need to overcome their faults by story end.

We eventually learn the secret of Grendel, Kentucky: there is a monster in that cave and hill and, as long as it is fed a human every year, the surrounding countryside is seemingly blessed with incredibly fertile crops, which are used to make the town incredibly prosperous.

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Of course, all soon begins to go south, so to speak. The town, looking to break free of the curse they’re under, go to kill the monster. They do, and then spend the night partying, drinking, having sex, and passing out.

However, as anyone who has read the original Grendel story knows, even monsters have mothers who love their children and, like any good saga, a bloodfeud begins. This particular bloodfeud is made more interesting as we learn more about Marnie’s background, the demise of her own biological father, and how the townspeople explained it away.

The climax of the story witnesses a great, ferocious battle between this version of Beowulf – Marnie – and Grendel’s mother. Without giving too much away, Marnie wins, but not without learning much about herself, her past, and an enigmatic final panel that puts an entirely new twist on the Grendel saga.

Verdict

The original Grendel/Beowulf story was full of excitement, battles, blood, ferocity, and glory of all that was heroic during that time period. What is was short on was character building, which was not a particularly important story telling device at that time. This re-interpretation of the sage has more to do with flawed characters who really do not want to fight but find they have no choice. Unlike the original, where Grendel attacks the village simply because he’s evil, this interpretation provides a greater symbiotic relationship between Grendel and the townsfolk; Grendel gets fed, and the town is rewarded with lush, fertile fields. This AWA version also leaves begging the question of nature vs. nurture, who made who, and can good really exist without evil.

If this is the quality of work to expect from AWA, I will definitely be a repeat customer. My orders for my next series have already been placed.

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