Grendel #3: Devil’s Lash

Issue 3 is the first issue where I think you could make a very strong case for mature readership. OK, yes, in the last issue Christine discovered a box full of eyeballs in little vials–but issue 3 is where the profanity and violence ramp up. Both Christine and Tujiro commit a grisly murder, and neither is particularly conventional. That means opportunity for lots and lots of blood.

Christine, caught in the act of ransacking Tujiro’s hotel room (and maybe a little distracted from the eyeballs because who wouldn’t be?), attempts to fight her way out only to be overpowered by Tujiro and thrown right out the damn window. She grabs her rope and flees to Brian’s place, feigning a mugging to explain her injuries. Brian, being the sweet and innocent dude that he is, nurses her wounds and even cooks her breakfast.

There’s no more room for subtlety. Christine spends the evening tracking down the Shark, one of Tujiro’s top associates, and finds him at his favorite sex club. She waits for him to sit back on the bed, then stabs Grendel’s fork through his neck. It’s a moment of gruesome violence, and Christine makes a point of hunting him, hiding in the shadows, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. She wants his neck. Foreshadowing of things to come.

The thrill seems to wear off. Christine is clearly disturbed by what she’s done. In her notes she writes about how calm and directed she felt in the moment, then later writes about how sickening it was. When her friend Regina calls, Christine lies again and pretends everything’s all right. She knows the phone is tapped, but is unaware that Argent is on her tail.

Christine decides to return to Tujiro’s hotel room to kill him. She watches him leave and parks her car, waiting. When he returns, something is in his bag. She scales the hotel wall and watches through the window.

First, Tujiro puts on his Kabuki makeup.

Then he pulls a young boy from his bag. A boy with a missing eye.

Then he bites the boy’s neck.

This is the moment where the series delves into full-on horror. We’re not talking about simply a child murderer anymore–this is, at the very least, a guy who thinks he’s a vampire. The tension has built over the previous two issues and now Tujiro’s dark secret is exposed. One of the most exciting things about comics is that you’re primed by experience to accept the unexpected. If Cyclops can shoot a beam out of his eyes, then surely there can also be a world-devouring Galactus in this universe too, right?

Dark Horse reprint

But up until this point, Grendel has been mostly on the level. A little futuristic, but real enough to pass for our own world (minus Argent, I guess). And that makes the last panel–where Tujiro pulls away from the boy’s neck, his fangs dripping with blood–so much more horrifying. Tujiro is something supernatural–but Christine isn’t a superhero. She’s going to have to come to terms with this and figure out a way to kill him using only the resources left by Hunter Rose.

Christine is becoming obsessed with Tujiro. The death of her son, the death of other little boys … it’s driving her anger. Even in her dreams, she fantasizes about wrapping her hands around Tujiro’s neck and squeezing (see all the neck stuff? Totally foreshadowing!). It’s only in the company of Brian that her humanity resurfaces. Brian, poor innocent Brian, provides a numbing salve to her wounds.

And makes her pancakes.

Christine hunts by night (kinda vampiric herself, eh?). First, she hunts down the Shark. In her journal entries, she talks directly to him, leading him near the window so she can stab his neck. The next night, she’s hunting Tujiro. It’s hard to focus because she’s thinking about Brian, but she has to write down what she’s seen. She watches Tujiro’s routine from start to finish and can’t help but imagine her own son going through it.

Right down to the neck bite.

Coloring: Once again, Tujiro shines. But one thing that I remember vividly from my childhood is the coloring process for black costumes. I remember this from Spider-Man too, when he had the black costume. BLUE is used to color the lines, like this. It’s a coloring trick that works really well, way better than using white to define lines. It lets the colorist play with a solid black instead of shades.

Comics Code: The Comics Code Authority was founded in 1954 amid concern of “horrific” content in comics. To receive the CCA stamp, comics had to follow the CCA standards that went far beyond depictions of violence or sex. For example:

  • In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.
  • Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.

Needless to say, Grendel did not receive the CCA stamp.

Next: Grendel #4: Touch Not the Devil!

Previous: Grendel #2


All images copyrighted by Dark Horse Comics.