Writer: Nathan Edmondson
Pencils/Cover artist: CAFU
Inks: Jason Gorder
Colors: Andrew Dalhouse
Letters: Wes Abbott
Editor: Bobbie Chase
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
Normally, I wouldn’t have been all that keen to read a comic book starring a character from Jim Lee’s WildC.A.T.s, a series that was symbolic of the sort of Kewl storytelling of the early 1990s, a property that was all about how it looked and not at all about any real substance. But I was quite interested in Grifter because it’s written by Nathan Edmondson, the same man responsible for the compelling, novel plotting in Who Is Jake Ellis?. That espionage series with superhuman elements was one of the best limited series of the year, and the title character on this New 52 book seemed like it’d be a good fit for the writer’s sensibilities. That’s true to a certain extent, but after reading this inaugural issue, I felt more confused than entertained. I honestly have no idea if this is a new origin story, if it’s set after the title character’s time with the WildC.A.T.s or something else altogether. There are elements I find interesting, but the lack of clarity in the script serves as an obstacle.
Cole Cash is a guy who likes cold, hard cash, fittingly enough, and he’s been operating as a con man under various assumed names for years. His latest scam goes off like clockwork, and he heads to the airport to meet up with his shapely accomplice. On the way, though, he’s abducted and experimented on by mysterious forces, but after he escapes, Cash discovers he’s been altered somehow, able to hear alien voices that are plotting against him. He’s determined to learn what happened during those the 17 minutes he’s lost, but he also knows he needs to get to safety, to lay low. Little does he know there’s more than a weird conspiracy out to get him, but that he’s drawn the attention of the U.S. government as well.
CAFU is an adept comic artist whose name has popped up in Marvel and DC credits a bit in recent years, and he does a solid job with the visuals for this first issue. Mind you, most of the elements in this first issue are kind of mundane in nature (at least visually), so he really doesn’t have much in the way of flashy images with which to dazzle the reader. The one weird element in the art is a design for some kind of alien creature. While it’s appropriately creepy in appearance, it’s also a bit generic in appearance, with its reptilian body and Cthlulu-esque head. CAFU’s style is reminiscent of that of Paul (Time Bomb) Bomb and Gary (Superman: Secret Origin) Frank.
The colors are a bit brighter than what I would’ve expected of a book about con men, alien conspiracies and supposed terrorism. Some scenes are darker in muted in tones, but others are too brightly “lit.” For example, the final scene, set in a graveyard, is alive with color, from the bright greens of the grass. I get it’s daylight in the scene, but duller tones to the greens could’ve cast an appropriate pall over the setting, reinforcing the tension we’re meant to experience in that final moment. Another nitpick with the visual attributes of the book stems from the cover logo. It’s a standard super-hero logo, and the bullet holes convey a little something about the title character. But why use a bullet hole to dot the “I”? By transforming one of the letter forms into a lower case character, it brings a slightly goofy or cutesy tone to the logo. However, I have to give credit for the qualities instilled in key word balloons inside the comic. The alien, telepathic speak looks pretty cool, with its roughshod balloons in weird two-tone blues.
After reading the comic, I’m not sure if this is meant to be the title character’s new origin. It seems like the alien threat are the Daemonites from the original WildC.A.T.s series, but I’m not certain. Did the hero have the odd, impractical bandana mask before all this weirdness befell him? Does he have powers? If he’s new at all this action-oriented stuff, how’d he manage so well in the confrontation on the airplane? I suspect Edmondson’s story is a new take on Grifter, that this is a full reboot, but if that’s the case, why would the creators stick with the “Cole Cash” name? And even if DC feels the name’s got to stay to please fans of the original take on the character, why name his brother “Max Cash”? “Max Cash” … Come on, now.
Obviously, the writer is aiming for the same sort of mysterious atmosphere and intrigue that made Jake Ellis such a fun read, but he misses the mark this time out. The script isn’t at all inviting. Furthermore, Jake Ellis is a good read in part because the writer developed a strong, genuine voice for the protagonist; in other words, he seemed like a real, regular guy who found himself in unreal circumstances. All we get in Grifter is the unreal part. There’s little characterization to speak of in this first issue, just premise. Now, I admit the actions of the villains in the story are creepy. When the woman on the plane extracts a weapon embedded in her own flesh, the intensity of that moment grabbed me. Unfortunately, Grifter #1 lost its grip on this particular reader far too quickly. 5/10
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