Each weekday, Tim will take a look at what we know about each of the upcoming 52 new comics from the September DC relaunch, one series at a time. Today: GRIFTER!
The Concept and Characters: Grifter, like Voodoo, is one of the former Wildstorm characters making a jump to the DC Universe. Sporting the so-ridiculous-it-must-be-a-comic-book civilian name of Cole Cash, Grifter is an alien-slayer in a world of superheroes. Trained as a black ops agent, he now finds himself, as the press release states, “branded as a serial killer when he begins hunting and exterminating inhuman creatures in human form — creatures only he can see.”
Grifter is Sawyer from Lost mashed up with Rowdy Roddy Piper from They Live, with two guns blazing in slow motion like a John Woo hero.
He debuted as part of Jim Lee’s WildC.A.T.S. in the early 1990s, and his bad boy ways and striking visual appeal (well, for that era anyway) made him the most popular character on the team. He soon gained an extensive back story as part of Team 7, a kind of superhuman Dirty Dozen/G. I. Joe concept where Grifter honed his talents before his exploits with the present-day Covert Action Team of heroes. He also ended up spinning off into several solo series, all of which were pretty typical mid-to-late 1990s Image comics: garish and violent, but with plenty of energy.
Though his corner of the Image universe eventually broke off into Wildstorm, and though Wildstorm was purchased by DC a decade ago, Grifter hasn’t been part of a superhero world on the level of the DC Universe, ever. Even when Wildstorm was at it’s peak of superheroics, it featured only dozens of costumed characters. The DCU has been filled with thousands, for years.
Surely the DC relaunch will be a smaller-scale universe, at first, but Grifter will still have to live in a world full of well-intentioned metahumans. A world that’s less inherently corrupt and dark that the Wildstorm universe ever was.
Like Deathstroke, Grifter has a chance to carve out a relatively rare position for himself in the relaunched universe. He’s not a traditional superhero — he’s not a superhero at all — just a guy with powers, trying to do what needs to be done, while the whole world is out to get him.
The Creative Team: This is where the series gets really interesting. For even if Grifter has potential as a lead character, and he does, the writer will have to prove that it’s a character worth following, worth caring about, on a monthly basis. Grifter’s writer is Nathan Edmondson, and he’s an excellent choice.
Edmondson hasn’t done any high-profile work in comics yet — he hasn’t worked for Marvel or DC before this, and his name doesn’t pop up on any “Best of” lists — but over the past couple of years, he’s been steadily producing miniseries for Image Comics that have shown his range as a writer, and established the strength of his authorial voice. Starting with Olympus, a modern-day spin on mythology, and running through The Light, a horror comic with social commentary, and transitioning into this year’s crime/espionage tale Who is Jake Ellis?, Edmondson has branded himself as a Writer To Watch.
Artist Cafu hasn’t demonstrated himself to be as versatile as Edmondson, and, actually, his lush artwork on 2008-2009’s Vixen: Return of the Lion showed a much more illustrative side than we’ve seen in his more recent T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents work. When he’s finishing his own work, as he did on Vixen, he’s a stunning artist. When he’s cranking out a monthly series, inked by someone else, he’s merely good.
Recommendation: Buy it. Even as a relatively inexperienced comic writer, Edmondson has already proven himself to be someone worth reading. Grifter will be his biggest project to date, and I expect that he’ll want to show off his talents to the best of his abilities, so look for this series to start strong. This is one of the biggest wild cards of the relaunch, with no previous Grifter-in-the-DCU experience to draw from, and a new-to-superhero-comics writer taking the helm. But if I had to place a bet on the quality of the new DC line, book-by-book, I’d gamble on this series every time.