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Devil By The Deed: Netflix Marks A Long Overdue First With New Series 'Grendel'

By Claude Weaver III | TV | September 21, 2021 |

By Claude Weaver III | TV | September 21, 2021 |


Grendel has had an eclectic history both on and off the page. Created in 1982 by Matt Wagner, it began with a tale of the NYC underworld becoming the playground for a diabolical criminal genius, eventually evolving into a meditation on generational trauma and then a multi-part epic about aggression.

Originally featured in the anthology series Comico Primer, Wagner rebooted the character in a backup story in his then ongoing Mage series. An ongoing self-titled sequel series followed, with a new character behind the mask which lasted 40 issues. The series eventually shifted into a dystopian future where the character’s signature black and white mask is synonymous with the devil himself. The series went on hiatus after original publisher Comico went bankrupt and put the rights into legal limbo, but eventually, Wagner was able to resurrect the property at Dark Horse, where it’s been ever since.

Now Dark Horse, through its first look deal with Netflix (which already gave us The Umbrella Academy and Polar, and soon the awkwardly titled Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles) is bringing the blood-soaked noir tale to the small screens in a new eight-episode adaptation.

The series logline per Netflix:

Based on Matt Wagner’s groundbreaking comic book series, Grendel follows Hunter Rose, a gifted fencer, writer and assassin as, seeking to avenge the death of a lost love, he goes to war with New York’s criminal underworld, only to realize…why beat them, when you can join them?

So it sounds like they are adapting the first series, collected under the title Devil by the Deed. It’s been a while since I read Grendel, but it’s one of the few “villain protagonist” series I have actually been able to stomach. This was before the oversaturation of The Dark Knight Returns and the Dark Age of Comics really sunk in, so the tale of Legit Evil Batman, an arguably sociopathic mastermind wreaking havoc on criminals barely worse than he is, was still refreshing and fascinating. It’s probably why similar books like Mark Millar’s Nemesis fall flat (besides the fact that Nemesis is just utter garbage). I can’t say for sure how much of it aged well or not (there were certainly some… choices), but it will be interesting to see how they update the property for an audience that has both seemingly moved on from the “Bad Man” Period and entered the throes of comic book/superhero fatigue.

Abubakr Ali (Power Book II: Ghost, Katy Keene, the upcoming What If directed by Billy Porter) has been cast as Hunter Rose. This makes him the first Arab Muslim actor to be cast as the lead in a comic book adaptation, which is as exciting as it is sadly overdue. I can’t say I’m familiar with his work, but at first glance, I got no problem seeing him wielding the forked staff.

The role I’m most intrigued by is Julian Black Antelope (The Flash, Debris) as Argent, the Indigenous American man-wolf working with the police in a seemingly futile effort to use his curse for good, and eventually becomes Hunter’s personal nemesis. As WTF as that may sound, Wagner made it work, and I hope they can keep the tragic touches of the character intact.

The rest of the cast includes Jaime Ray Newman (Eureka, Dopesick, The Punisher) as Hunter’s lost love Jocasta Rose; Madeline Zima (The Nanny, Californication, Hacks) as Liz Sparks, the detective heading the Grendel investigation; Kevin Corrigan (Scenes from an Empty Church, The Get Down) as gangster and rival Barry Columbo; and Emma Ho (Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, The Expanse) as Barry’s daughter Stacy.

If this show continues beyond Devil by the Deed, keep an eye on Stacy. Things… don’t go well for her.

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Header Image Source: Dark Horse Entertainment/Netflix