Beowulf is one of the most important and most often translated works of Old English literature. There have been countless adaptations of Beowulf across all mediums, from Robert Zemeckis’s 3D motion capture movie to the 2017 Image comic by Santiago Garcia and David Rubin. Looking at the front cover of AWA’s Grendel, KY, there’s nothing to suggest an element of Old English fantasy, but once you start reading, you find out why “Grendel” is in the title.
During the fall of 1971, upon hearing the sudden death of her father, Marnie – the young leader of the all-female biker gang, the Harlots – returns to the rural hill town of Grendel, Kentucky to attend the funeral where she reconnects with her brother Denny and their grandfather. Initially thinking a bear slaughtered their dad, Marnie and Denny uncover a family secret in the shape of a monster living in the town’s abandoned coal mine.
In terms of how it evokes the Beowulf text, there are certainly some elements, most notably a monster that plagues the town if a human sacrifice isn’t given every season. Don’t expect any dragons, though. This isn’t dependent on how well you know the source material, because the story that Jeff McComsey and Tommy Lee Edwards are telling is a monster horror, plain and simple.
There was a rise of outlaw motorcycle clubs in the ’60s and ’70s, and this comic makes the smart decision to focus on an all-female gang, which is a welcoming presence during the period setting. Although many of these characters don’t go beyond partying, their interactions are a fun contrast to the bleak brutality of the monster thrashing. In terms of characterization, it’s about the family, specifically Marnie, who was scared by the monsters lurking in darkness when she was the child, only to be told by the monsters are not real, something that our own parents told us in our childhoods. Like a dark fairy tale, that childhood horror ends up being a reality she has to confront as an adult.
Known for his moody visuals that have been used to great effect in DC titles like Mother Panic and Superman: American Alien, Tommy Lee Edwards is perfect in drawing horror set within rural America. Mixing thick inking and a variety of many different colors, Edwards makes the central setting look vibrant and murky, which give a nice visual contrast to the terrifying black-silhouetted monster as depicted in large panels that are just dripping with bloody corpses.
Grendel, Kentucky is a fairly quick read without a great deal of depth, but if you want to read a fun monster horror with some badass bike-riding women, this is the comic for you.
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