Grifter #1

Grifter #1

C-

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.

tags: cafu, grifter, nathan edmondson, the new 52

  • Anonymous

    I liked this book a little more than you did, though I see your point about its schizophrenic scene changes and time jumps (though I think that also establishes a modern cinema feel). I really, really enjoyed CAFU’s art… the Gary Frank thing is a good call. I won’t be buying this book, but I think I’m gonna follow along for awhile. 

    My one point re: Grifter’s shock at killing someone in flashback versus his quick murder on the plane – I mean, it must have gotten easier the second time, right, especially as he descends further into madness? I grant you the script doesn’t really give that idea enough attention, but I do think it’s excusable. On the other hand, it’s only been a few hours, I guess? I don’t know. Weird scene. 

  • Thomas Foss

    Yeah, I get that it would be easier for him–though as you say, it’s only seventeen hours or so later, and it doesn’t look like he’s done any killing in the interim. My problem was with the effect on the reader, who might have shared in the protagonist’s shock and horror at taking an apparently human life if we hadn’t already seen him do it once, with some objective confirmation that they aren’t actually human. Setting that scene in the middle of the book just deflates all the suspense and emotional gravitas.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=678019951 Andrew Stamm

    Wow… I had a lot of fun with this book, I’m surprised to see such a negative review

  • Thomas Foss

    One thing I’ve learned from reading the reviews the last couple of weeks is that there truly are different strokes for different folks.

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