I think the last time I really cared about Grifter’s adventures was way back when WildC.A.T.s was still a Saturday morning cartoon. Since I’m not familiar with either writer Nathan Edmondson or artist CAFU, I’m essentially coming into this book cold as part of my New 52 resolution of trying new things. Given the solicitations, Grifter seemed like a safe bet: former special ops agent Cole Cash fighting against aliens that only he can see? I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping it’d be a psychological thriller like They Live set in the DCU.
Unfortunately, my expectations may have been too high. All the pieces of what I wanted and expected from the solicitation are there, just not in the right order, and the result is a messy story that trades suspense and horror for cheap action sequences.
In terms of timeline, Grifter is all over the place. Like Batwing and Men of War last week, Grifter starts things off in media res, where the titular (but as-yet-uncostumed) protagonist fights disguised aliens on — and then off — a plane. Then we flash back to “earlier,” where we see that the protagonist is a conman — a “grifter” — who gets captured by aliens and subjected to a mysterious but interrupted experiment. This leads back to the airplane scene, which eventually skips forward to an ending over two weeks later (with the protagonist experiencing some lost time). Add in a couple of jumps to Cash’s girlfriend and military brother, and you’ve got a book playing hopscotch in time and space.
The hodgepodge nature extends to the tone as well. The scene of Cash’s kidnapping, where he wakes up in the alien lab, is fairly moody and tense, and there’s a real horror movie aesthetic to the panel where he kills his first alien. CAFU’s art is a little too clean to set the right tone, but it’s otherwise pretty close to what I was expecting from this book in the first place.
So it’s a shame that all the suspense and shock of seeing a man driven to kill by mysterious voices threatening his life is robbed by the previous scene in the airplane, where Cash stabbed an alien-woman in the eye with a needle that she grew from her own disguised extraterrestrial body. There’s no question in the reader’s mind what the voices are, or if Cash is hallucinating, and his “Oh God, oh God, I just murdered someone!” in the flashback rings hollow when we already saw his rather casual approach to violence.
The art is generally decent; CAFU skews somewhere stylistically between Eddy Barrows and Supergirl-era Gary Frank, and aside from a few scenes where characters’ expressions don’t seem to match what they’re saying or thinking, it’s fairly solid. Edmonson’s script does a decent job of laying out the characters’ personalities and relationships in a fairly efficient way, and other than the military-scene infodump, it flows along pretty nicely. It’s a shame that the stitched-together plot and the abrupt tonal shifts between action, sci-fi horror and what appears to be Burn Notice obscure what might otherwise be a better-than-average comic.
Maybe if this book develops a consistent tone, it’ll be worth checking out down the line. As it stands, my Pull List Verdict: DROP IT.
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more