The new creative team of Rob Liefeld, Frank Tieri and Scott Clark come on board to try injecting some new life into Grifter by increasing the level of action but also the epic scale of the main character’s role against the Daemonites. The big question here is whether it works. Um... not really?
In my recent Stormwatch #9 review, I explained that I’ve never been a huge Wildstorm guy. I read some of the more notable titles and runs, but the universe was never something I got much into. Counted among those parts of Wildstorm I never really got into were WildCATS and Grifter. I was vaguely aware that Grifter was meant to be the original badass of the Wildstorm Universe and all that, but I really didn’t know much about the character beyond that. So when the New 52 hit, I didn’t come to Grifter with many expectations and ended up finding it to be one of the better new books DC had put out. Oh, it was pretty slow-paced, but I got caught up in the ‘Jason Bourne meets Aliens” premise of it.
Grifter was failing in terms of sales, though. I can knowledge that and accept the reality that this book either needed to change or be cancelled. Picking up the pace and cranking out more action is a reasonable new approach. But while that does seem to be the direction Liefeld and company are going here, they don’t really start with a big bang.
The issue kicks off with an action scene that has Grifter being pursued by a Daemonite on skis. Yeah, they’re skiiing. Because, why not? It’s not like it isn’t something we’ve seen before in action movies. Okay, so this whole thing is rather silly, and it caps off with Grifter pulling off an extreme move that you just know would be captured in bullet-time if this was an action movie. It’s action, but it’s really nothing elevated or more impressive than what we’ve seen in this book before.
We are then introduced to the New 52’s version of Cheshire, I presume. Honestly, I had to be told in the solicitation that this is Cheshire, because I totally don’t trip off it here. All I can say about this being Cheshire is... what a sad waste of a cool female villain. Her new design is definitely one of the New 52 designs that doesn’t scream “new” so much as “‘90s.” It’s got the right color scheme, but it’s painfully dull and uncreative. And believe me, she doesn’t make up for looks with personality either. I’m left wondering why they’re even bothering to make this Cheshire. There’s really nothing distinctly Cheshire about her, and her role is no different than the standard “all business, tough chick” role. She comes off as a stand-in for Zealot. Very disappointing.
We are also introduced to Deathblow. I assume. Look, I said I didn’t read much of Wildstorm when it came to WildCATS and other areas. Some soldier-looking guy with red lines on his face shows up. Again, I only know thanks to the solicitation that this is Deathblow. This is one purely for the preexisting Wildstorm fans, because the story does nothing to introduce the rest of us to him.
As last issue set up, the new direction for Grifter is to elevate the main character to the status of the Chosen One. This is supposedly meant to make things more exciting and epic. I don’t believe it does. Maybe this is just my own personal tastes, but it makes me find the character a little boring now. Before, Grifter was the defiant underdog that resulted from some tiny slip-up the Daemonites made. That was pretty cool. He’s not the defiant underdog anymore. He’s the Chosen One, presumably meaning he is also back by some kind of prophecy. That’s kind of boring, and it’s ill suited to a grounded character like Grifter. I have a similar problem with the All-Caste in Red Hood and the Outlaws in connection to Jason Todd. Framing characters like these in overdramatic fashion with prophecies and the like just doesn’t work well. It’s a lame direction to take them in, and Grifter going from the underdog to the champion is a direction that makes me less interested in his character.
On a completely separate note, is it just me or are the Daemonites getting really weak and unimpressive? The Daemonite we see pursuing Grifter is taken out by a pair of handguns and some swords. And he is supposed to be some elite class of Daemonite operative too. I don’t get it. How are Daemonites even dangerous? From most of what I have seen, they aren’t much tougher than human beings and they are neither armed or in possession of offensive powers. The idea of these guys invading isn’t all that scary. Besides their looks, there’s really nothing intimidating about them.
Honestly, I’ve never been a big Rob Liefeld hater. I don’t think he’s a great artist or anything, but there’s no passion behind any problems I have with his work. Still, I’m at a total loss as to why DC could possibly believe that his writing talents will save any of the three titles they are giving him. Does DC have something against writers? They seem to prefer to give writing jobs to artists these days.
This creative team change is not going to save Grifter. The majority of those who are motivated to give Liefeld’s debut issues a try are really just doing it to see what kind of a mess it might be. Sorry to disappoint, but this issue isn’t a mess. It really isn’t much of anything. It introduces a couple of characters in underwhelming fashion and positions Grifter in a more cliched and less exciting role against the Daemonites, who are getting less and less interesting with every appearance. Grifter might be the Chosen One now, but I suspect he’ll be the Cancelled One soon enough.