Grendel #18-19: Devil Eyes

Wiggins is now a best-selling author, thanks to his first Grendel story. Finally–finally!–someone in the Grendel universe might have slipped away from the Devil’s grasp. Wiggins is still retired, still sipping margaritas on the beach, and he has a beautiful new wife.

So of course he decides to tell another story. This story, again, focuses on a side-character while Grendel and Argent lurk in the shadows. But this story fills in one of the most crucial questions in the original Grendel storyline:

What really happened the night Argent was humiliated?

26577-3699-29501-1-grendelEnter: Tommy Nuncio, the rat. He considers his life pretty good. He sleeps all day, then spends all night partying and listening in on the conversations of those who dabble in criminal undertakings. How does he make his money? By ratting them out, of course.

But one night, he gets a big scoop. A huge scoop. While in the bathroom, he overhears two people talking about a big job. Grendel is going to assassinate Anson Reynolds at a party at Stone Bayou. Nuncio goes deep into his cups, scheming, listening to others at the bar to get a sense of how real this scoop is. Sounds legit. Sounds like something he could get some good money for, too. So he takes his story to the cops.

Instead of talking with the police chief, Nuncio is led to a dark interrogation room where the Wolf questions him. Just like last story, Argent enjoys extra-judicious privileges. And Argent sees his opportunity to get Grendel. Nuncio leaves without police protection–they won’t protect him unless he turns out to be right–and so he drinks and smokes the night away in a nervous funk. He can’t wait to get the newspaper the following morning. He unfolds it and reads the headline.

He’s in trouble.

26684-3699-29615-1-grendelIt was all a setup. Instead of Grendel appearing in person, Argent found himself fooled by a carefully placed hologram. The Wolf crashed through the ceiling, landed among terrified partygoers (including Stacy Palumbo and her adopted father, Hunter Rose), and was thoroughly humiliated.

Nuncio is sure Grendel (or maybe even Argent) will come after him now that it’s clear he was set up. He locks himself in his apartment, setting up traps and barring the doors. He filters his water. He refuses to shower or use the toilet. He keeps his garbage in the kitchen. He steams open letters, then puts them back. He turns all the lights out at night. He thinks all of this will save him.

But he’s no match for Grendel. And when the Devil comes for Nuncio, his only hope is to spring his traps and flee. Grendel follows, hitching a ride on top of the cab. He corners Nuncio and kills him, leaving him in the trunk of a car with a bloody “G” carved in his stomach.

Misplaced Rage: Even though Nuncio is technically the star of this story, it’s the relationship of Hunter Rose and Stacy Palumbo that’s most interesting. Grendel fucked up–he didn’t realize humiliating Argent would have such a devastating effect on Stacy. And Hunter Rose has no reason to go after Nuncio–after all, the rat did exactly as he was expected to do. No, Hunter Rose went after Nuncio because of a misplaced desire to punish. Hunter Rose can’t accept that he’s responsible for his daughter’s depression, and so he lashes out at someone else–Nuncio, in this case. It serves as a crucial reminder of just how deep the Devil cuts. Maybe it says something about misplaced aggression, too: after all, don’t we all search for antagonists when we’re unwilling to look within ourselves and accept responsibility?

“Approaches Window”: The layout is a creative masterpiece. In addition to lots of vertical panels, the top section of each page provides “notes” from Wiggins, scribbled in cursive. Call it an outline, if you will, and it serves as a meta-commentary on the panels themselves. Directions. Nuncio is the narrator of his own story, which is no doubt a decision made by Wagner but on a meta-level it’s also a decision made by Wiggins, since he’s the author of this story.

And Wiggins expects his new book to sell well.

Next: Grendel #20!

Previous: Grendel #16-17: Devil Tracks