I never followed the Wildcats comic or the animated series, but I'm well aware that Grifter is one of the franchise's most popular characters. He's appeared in crossover series, had several toys, and it's no surprise that DC chose to give him his own title when they intergrated the Wildstorm characters into their own universe. Not being all that familiar with the character, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this issue. And what little I did expect definitely wasn't what I got. Whether that's because the character was changed dramatically or because I was even less familiar with Grifter than I thought remains to be seen.
Writer Nate Edmonson spins a non-linear tale that's reminiscent of sci-fi classic They Live. After losing 17 minutes- or maybe 17 days- professional grifter Cole Cash finds himself haunted by strange, disembodied voices that seem pretty intent on killing him. This is carefully set up so that it isn't clear to the reader whether the voices are real, or Cole is just paranoid, and I'm really to see how long they can keep that up. When I was younger, I was convinced that Grifter was a rip-off of Gambit, but this version seems to take a page from Lost's Sawyer.(with elements of John Lithgow in Twilight Zone). Josh Holloway was almost certainly used as a model for the character, and it's fun to have a built-in voice to read the character in.
I dislike decompression, and it pains me to say this, but Grifter would've really benefited from stretching its first issue out a little more. There are some really cool elements introduced here, but I don't feel like enough time is devoted to them to really make it work. From Grifter's con, which we don't see enough of to really understand, to the introduction of his special ops brother, the comic is full of elements that needed a few more pages to shine. This issue ends with Grifter donning his famous face covering, and I suspect that Edmonson wanted to get all the basics out of the way so that he could dive into the real story for issue 2.
Cafu, a longtime Superman artist who's recently done some great work on T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, isn't at his best here. Both his action scenes and his figure work are terrific, but the comic is really lacking in facial expressions, something he's usually great at. Cafu's still a tremendous talent, and he turns out some solid pages, but his art isn't the draw that it'd usually be. I know several of these books had some tight deadlines, and I hope we get to see him at his best in the issues to come.
While there's nothing in this comic that relies on knowledge of Grifter or the Wildstorm universe, its unusual narrative may make this a trickier read for some readers. This is the sort of title that plays better when you read it twice, and those looking for something more straightforward may want to give this a pass. That said, this certainly isn't complex enough to make it impenetrable to the average reader, and no one interested in this comic should let its back and forth narrative scare them off.
Grifter #1 is a flawed but interesting comic that definitely left me curious about what would come next. Ultimately, this issue worked for me more on the strength of its concepts than on the story on the pages, but this was still a mostly enjoyable read that would've been even better if so many books this week hadn't featured plane fights. I don't know enough about Grifter to recommend this to fans of the character, but I'd definitely suggest fans of paranoia fueled horror tales or fans of Edmonson's Who is Jake Ellis give this one a look.