Two siblings are reunited after the death of their father. However, both of them seem to be positive that there’s more to their dad’s death than what they’re being told.
The first issue of Grendel, Kentucky doesn’t deliver much in terms of the spookier side of things, but those elements are definitely going on in the background. The opening sequence of what is presumably Clyde suiting up for a battle with some unknowable evil sets the tone right away. There’s an intensity in his eyes that only belongs to a man consumed by what he must do, and the panels showing how strapped he is really sell the danger of the situation, even without directly showing us what he’s getting into.
That’s a hell of an establishing scene, but where this issue really excels is in the quiet moments. Jeff McComskey and Tommy Lee Edwards give the reader plenty of smaller scenes that establish where these characters are in their lives. Whether it’s Denny moving drugs or the solemn sight of Marnie’s motorcycle gang escorting her to her father’s funeral, we get to learn so much about our protagonists through their silence.
However, the voices of the various characters are still very well defined. Right out of the gate, everyone feels like a lived-in character. There’s so much history loaded into every line of dialogue, every interaction. There’s an unspoken tension in the air at all times, making even the quieter moments (and that’s most of what this issue is) feel more dangerous and charged than a bar brawl (but don’t worry; readers get one of those here, too).
John Workman also makes a meal out of the lettering in this issue, particularly when it comes to sound effects. There’s a variation of style and color to each sound effect, with some things having an appropriate crunch to them, while others relay the lightness that should be felt in a certain situation, like a crowd of people laughing.
Again, much of this first issue is concerned with getting the characters together and helping the reader to get to know them. Anyone who is expecting the horror elements to be front loaded in this series may find themselves disappointed. It also jumps around a bit in the early pages, which had me re-reading a page or two to make sure I didn’t miss anything.
However, patient readers will find plenty to latch onto in this introductory chapter. It’s full of strong character work and detailed illustrations. It seems that McComsey and Edwards want us to really know these folks and their hometown before the real horror begins. On that front, this issue succeeds splendidly.