This summer, Dark Horse is set to release a new Grendel story from series creator Matt WagnerGrendel: Devil’s Crucible-Defiance #1 marks Grendel Prime’s return to Earth and how things are not quite as he left them. Wagner is on words and art, and Brennan Wagner provides the colors. Rob Leigh is on letters.

Grendel: Devil's Crucible-Defiance

Matt Wagner discussed the new comic with The Beat.
DEANNA DESTITO: Where does this fit in with the Grendel canon?

MATT WAGNER: Grendel: Devil’s Crucible is the direct sequel to 2021’s Devil’s Odyssey. That storyline saw the world of the Grendel clans and the Grendel Khanate in even further global decline. The last ruling Grendel Khan, Juno II, summoned Grendel Prime out of his self-imposed exile and sent him on a mission into space in search of a new home for all of humanity. This was a pretty big deal because this futuristic scenario has seen an atrophied state of technology with any continuing space exploration being non-existent as the world focused instead on its own petty power struggles.

As Devil’s Odyssey readers know, Grendel Prime’s mission proved to be fruitless, and he was forced to return to Earth. But, due to the relativity of space travel, 500 years had elapsed since he’d departed on his journey. The world he finds on his return is drastically changed from the one he left behind, with the final panel seeming to indicate that the Grendels, once the ruling military elite—akin to knights or samurais from the past—were now exiled and forbidden to exist…by order of a mystery authority known only as the “Necro-Lords.”

DESTITO: What does this series bring to the table for both old fans of the Grendel mythos and those just jumping on?

WAGNER: Grendel is particularly unique in the world of comic book narratives in its willingness and legacy of constantly reinventing itself and its title character. The overall epic saga covers many centuries of story time, beginning in the mid-1980s, when the series premiered, and advancing far into the dark and dangerous realms of mankind’s future. I’ve spoken to literally hundreds of readers over the years who jumped on board with one particular storyline and then were inspired to dig up and voraciously consume all the other story arcs…and that’s a lot of pages!

Grendel: Devil’s Crucible-Defiance is the first 4-part chapter of a larger 12-issue Devil’s Crucible storyline and, as described above, it presents a whole new direction and scenario that both longtime readers and new readers should appreciate. In that sense, it’s a perfect jumping-on stage for anyone interested in checking out the Grendel phenomenon.

DESTITO: What inspired this next story for Grendel Prime?

WAGNER: When I first began work on Devil’s Odyssey, it’d been several years since I’d done anything with Grendel Prime. As I said, Grendel’s guiding aesthetic is one of constant reinvention, and I felt like we’d now spent quite a bit of narrative time in the futuristic world of the warring Grendel clans. I felt like it was time to shake things up, and I needed a narrative catalyst to make that happen. 

And so I decided to send Prime into outer space. As an undying cyborg, he was uniquely suited for the rigors of space travel, and the ensuing time he would spend off-world would give the chance to reorganize the societal and political structures for when he ultimately returned to Earth. Part of my inspiration for Odyssey was to act as an homage for what an impact the first several years of Heavy Metal magazine had on me when I was a teen. Most contemporary sci-fi tends to deal with entire civilizations and complicated narratives. In Odyssey, I wanted to revive the old-school concept of a lone explorer traversing the cosmos in search of some unattainable quest…it was my take on Gulliver’s Travels in space. The entire time I was working on Odyssey, I knew what the ultimate result would be and the vastly altered world that Prime would confront upon his return. 

DESTITO: How did you approach the art to bring this story to life?

WAGNER: As I said, I intended Devil’s Crucible to be a very direct sequel to Devil’s Odyssey and, as a result, the rendering style is basically identical to the earlier series. The only real change is in my son, Brennan Wagner’s, approach to the coloring. Odyssey presented a variety of alien worlds and a kaleidoscope of different color palettes. In contrast, Devil’s Crucible deals with a post-apocalyptic landscape, one that utilizes a lot of Earth tones and, of course…this is Grendel, after all…plenty of blood and gore. There is another certain garish element to the coloring as well, but that’ll have to wait until the series is published.

Grendel: Devil's Crucible-Defiance

DESTITO: What is your favorite panel or story element (no spoilers, of course, only teasers)?

WAGNER: This series has been a blast to work on and there are almost too many exciting sequences to pick any one as my fave. As a result, I’ve found working on this series to be a vigorous and speedy experience. As I mentioned, the overall storyline of Devil’s Crucible will be 12 issues long—broken into three 4-issue series. And I’m currently drawing the 10th chapter of that saga. So there’s a lot coming for my readers and, like I said, it’s been a lot of fun with a lot of excitement in store.

DESTITO: Can you tease anything from future issues for the readers?

WAGNER: Aside from the thrill of exploring this all-new scenario in the Grendel saga, I can reveal that there are some huge surprises in store for my readers. The jaw-dropping variety of surprises.  More than that, I can’t say at this point…but it’ll definitely leave fans clamoring for more!

Grendel: Devil’s Crucible-Defiance #1 will hit stores on July 3.