Despite having died in his first storyline, original “Grendel” Hunter Rose has had quite a prolific publishing afterlife. Among the miniseries and anthologies chronicling his exploits, the character even found the time to take on Batman in a two-part story from original creator Matt Wagner. I mention “Batman/Grendel” because without that precedent, this miniseries pitting Hunter against The Shadow would be far harder to swallow. As it is, the two play quite well off of each other and into Wagner’s street-level pulp instincts. After the requisite bit of hand-waving to set things up -- a spell in an old Chinese urn sends Hunter back in time to the 30’s -- the story is off and running as The Shadow finds out that this latest crime wave hitting New York is led by a masked man known only as Grendel. Meanwhile, Hunter Rose is the new talk of the town with his bestselling book and keen wit that goes great at parties. At lot of the fun of any “Grendel” story involving Hunter is in simply watching him work a room with his charm or dual-pronged spear. He may be utterly evil, but you’re won over by the man because he makes it look like so much fun!
As for the opposition, The Shadow doesn’t really do “fun.” The most interesting thing about him in this story is seeing this normally untouchable avenger confounded by Hunter’s skills both in and out of costume. He does give as good as he gets, and that gives the story some dramatic tension as you’re never quite sure who is going to come out on top in their encounters. Ultimately, all of this fighting doesn’t really add up to a whole lot. The battle between the two characters is effectively a zero-sum game, and you pretty much have to have read “Devil by the Deed” in order to understand just why Hunter would be undone by nostalgia in the end. (If you haven’t, then go pick up “Grendel Omnibus: Hunter Rose” right now!) Wagner still makes this an entertaining affair as he’s clearly invested in the material. The writing is sharp and the art is filled with lots of detail specific to the era and in the actions of the characters themselves. If you’ve never read a story featuring either of these characters, then this isn’t the best introduction to either of them. (Seriously, go read that omnibus!) For the converted, it’s not essential but still great fun.