I've been a Grendel fan for a long time. I buy every issue in periodical form whenever a new story comes out, and I usually buy the trade edition as well. This is one series I seriously collect.
When I read that the trade paperback edition of GRENDEL: Devil's Reign was coming out, I was very excited as I really liked this book. Orion Assante has been a character from the Grendel mythos that I wanted to read more about, and this story fed that hunger.
Two of my favorite creators were involved: Matt Wagner, the man behind the entire Grendel mythos, this time writing only, and Tim Sale, one of my favorite comics artists (and the artist whose work also appears in the hit show, HEROES). It was a match made in Hell.
The main thing I LOVE about this book is the way that Wagner's & Sale's work complimented each other. Also, aside from the black vs. white backgrounds for the two paralleling stories, there is also a separation of text and art panels that differs from many standard comic books. I really enjoyed reading this in periodical form and am glad to have the collection to refer back to for re-reads. I even love the fonts chosen [OK, I know I'm a nerd].
The big disappointment of this trade paperback collection is the lack of any additional supplemental material. Aside from the terrific new painted cover by Wagner, there isn't any additional content aside from the reprint of the story itself. No introduction, sketches, behind the scenes, pin-up gallery...nothing. That is disappointing because I can refer to most of the other Grendel trades and hardcovers I own and there is a fair amount of additional material.
In a sense, I see the trades and hardcovers like buying a DVD of a movie you love. You probably supported it in the theater (just like buying the original comics) but you loved it so much that you want the story again, in a collected form and I've come to expect a bit more than just the story, in the collected edition. And I'm not trying to knock Dark Horse because they usually do an amazing job in their collected editions.
For example, a few months back I bought the anniversary edition of the BATMAN/GRENDEL crossover. Sure I own these books in their original editions, but to support all that is Grendel, I bought the new edition. And it was terrific. Aside from the wonderful original story; the original 4 covers were reprinted along with sketch and color illustration development pages narrated by the notes of Matt Wagner. This is an example of the wonderful extras I've come to expect.
I don't mean to go on and on, and maybe to first-time readers of the story it is not a big deal. But some of us are hardcore, reading the stories so many times they feel more like parts of our own memories than just stories.
These stories become part of our lives, so as much as I wanted to rave about the actual Devil's Reign story here, I'm left wondering if I should have flipped through the trade first, because I feel a bit robbed.
Yes, that is a real Grendel tattoo. It's an image of the mask of Grendel Prime from GRENDEL: War Child. The image is ghosted on the back of the limited edition leather-bound hardcover copy I have. A gift from an old friend at DH. A friend who knew I was hardcore.