For issues 20-23, Matt Wagner experiments. These aren’t comics in a classical sense … they leave a lot to the reader’s imagination, moving from scene to scene with a chaotic, fragmented pace. Their goal is to push us hundreds of years into the future to start the next “proper” Grendel story, which begins essentially with issue 24. There is no “dialogue” as you might expect. Instead, you get snippets of conversations, boiled down oftentimes into single words or cliches (important for this issue, which focuses on a mega-corporation that profits from spoon-feeding junk entertainment to the masses). You have to interpret a bit, and rely on the narrator who talks directly to the main character of this issue.
So I’ll tell you what I know for sure, then I’ll tell you what I think I know …
What I know for sure
Someone sold the rights to Grendel, and in the future it’s either a TV show or a series of movies. Throughout the issue, the main character–Charlie, an executive for Omni Broadcasting–stands in front of TV’s showing the image of Grendel. There’s clearly a female Grendel and a male Grendel, which means they’re probably telling the stories of Hunter Rose and Christine Spar. The series is a huge hit, and Omni Broadcasting profits extensively from this show.
Omni Broadcasting wants to grow, but the powers of the U.S. and Russia are standing in the way.
A member of Charlie’s board, Harold White, schemes for a solution.
What I think I know
White’s solution is to assassinate the leaders of the U.S. and Russia. To that end, they hope for more favorable leadership in order to expand their business.
The narrator is Grendel.
What It Means
Charlie relents to his associate’s schemes, and in the final panel he sits in his office, clearly distraught. Playing the background is video footage of a nuclear explosion. Charlie and his scheming board have brought about a nuclear war.
So what’s happened so far? Well, Wiggins got rich with books about Grendel. Those books sold really, really well. Eventually, an entertainment company–a cable network, kinda–acquired the rights to Grendel and made it a smash TV series. That same company, in an attempt to corner the market, at least casually participated in the assassination of two world leaders, causing a nuclear war.
Martyrdom: Poor Charlie. His kids and wife don’t respect him. His board schemes behind his back. He can’t even take a good shit he’s so stressed out. And through it all it’s obvious–through Grendel’s narration–that he feels as if he’s the victim in all of it. Shunned responsibility to the end, although at the very least the last panel of the issue suggests he realizes what he’s done.
And we still have two issues to go before the next big chapter starts!
Next up: Grendel #22!