Grifter 0

Today, Peter and (guest writer) The Freakin’ Animal Man are discussing Grifter 0, originally released September 12, 2012. Grifter 0 is part of the line-wide Zero Month.

Peter: Grifter is an enigma. He’s like a the less-cool version of Boba Fett in the DC Universe. He wears a mask, but I don’t know why. He’s got some powers, but I can’t tell what they are. All I know at this point is that he was a member of Team 7. Really, I was just never a Wildstorm person. I have NEVER read an issue published under that imprint. So the origin of the character is really lost on me. Hell, the overall appeal of the character is lost on me. I just don’t get it, and Rob Liefeld doesn’t do much for me in this scintillating zero issue.

Cole Cash is in a tube full of liquid, like a Bacta Tank or something. He’s being studied by some crazy scienctists who are giving him memories that never happened. Unlike their ‘other patients’ Cole is aware that something is wrong as the memories play out in his head. He can also ‘see’ his real surroundings without opening his eyes. He can see a hooded figure in the hologram, a ‘ghost in the machine’ if you will, named Warick. He doesn’t know Warick, and he doesn’t know why he knows Warick. Eventually, Warick breaks him out of this science-prison-thing, and takes him to a safe house. He leaves him an envelope with a new identity and says that Cole is on his own… again. Cool story bro, tell it again.

This issue could have been WAAAY shorter. The story that Leifeld and Frank Tieri wrote just drags on too long, with lots of filler that is nothing more than the goose feathers in a pillow of shit. Essentially, it’s the same story as Superboy 0 except instead of non-Superboy characters doing all the talking, it’s Cole Cash. Here’s the thing: I feel like Liefeld just missed the days he used to write characters that people liked and he had total control over — his ‘glory’ days. The man just wants his beloved Deadpool back. That’s right, I said it, Liefeld wants his most popular character back. But since Marvel is bad enough that he created his own comic company, he’ll just settle for turning a guy that looks a little bit like Deadpool into him. Oh wait, he did that already. Here’s a fun experiment: Take a look at images below and tell me which of these is different from the others?

I will give Liefeld one thing — he didn’t go quite off the deep end with this. It does tie into Grifter 1 (apparently, but I had to look that point up). This does suffer from needless voice-over, bad one-liners, and unnecessary carnage, which at this point is pretty much Liefeld’s M.O. Also, HE’S NOT DRAWING. But that took me a couple reads to notice. The first time, I thought to myself, ‘There is way to much shadowing and dark colors/textures for Liefeld.’ But then I still thought of him because of the overuse of lines on faces.

I mean, this guy looks like he’s growing hair all over his face. Regardless, the overuse of crosshatching detracts from an otherwise nice picture. It’s not rampant through the entire issue, just here and there enough to show penciler Scott Clark and inker Dave Beaty’s inconsistency. It also suffers from some serious anatomical errors about how legs and arms move in relationship to the rest of the body.

That looks like a 75 degree angle. Show me someone other than Bruce Lee who can make that kick while keeping their back as stiff as a board, while flexing their abs to the point where you’d expect someone to grate cheese on them.

Animal Man, did you ever read WildStorm Comics? Was Grifter worth reading before Rob Liefeld confused the hell out of me? Am I just missing something here, or did you get the same read on this as I did? Right now, this book is really confusing and doesn’t do too much for me having never read the character before outside of Team 7 #0. This Zero Issue doesn’t really tell me much about the character, other than he has a brother, gets experimented on a lot, and has lived dozens of different lives over the years.

Cheese gratin’ abs:

Animal Man: While the aesthetic was not to my liking early on, I did eventually plunge into Grifter at the beginning of the reboot. What I found out about both Grifter and Voodoo was that they were surprisingly good (not great, but decent enough to read through). For me, the two were like their own respective take on a superhero X-Files. Grifter knows something’s amiss and alien thoughts are in his head, and he has to run while the world is on his tail. It gets the job done. Same with Voodoo – she’s this alien being hunted by the feds, and she has to be clever to evade them. Sure, I can dig it. But both decomposed as the series continued. What started as intense suspenseful thrillers became incredibly confusing action messes. Grifter gets psychic powers out of nowhere and what was a story of a resourceful douchebag wearing a mask for no reason turned into a bland violent story.

I could tell this was the usual Robert Liefeld story, but to quote the first page, it felt… off. The writing was spaced, giving the art room to breath, a very non-Liefeld move, because things aren’t clear unless they’re awkwardly put into text covering the page. Upon further inspection, the story is by Liefeld but the writer of the dialogue is Frank Tieri. It’s not necessarily good dialogue, it’s weighed down by enough clichés (I swear to god, I’m gonna use The Red to find the ability to fart like a cow through Liefeld’s mail slot if I hear “Grifter is The One” one more time) and awkward transitions that are constantly hard to follow. Not until I was looking back on the issue looking for an example of bad dialogue did I realize the people keeping Cole called themselves Daemonites. It was such an important twist I just now caught it.

I don’t think I’m blind, but by that time I just barely cared enough to pay that much attention. This dialogue is bare, nothing worthwhile in it, but I feel Tieri was trying to mine any sort of salvageable material from the heaping pile of fecal matter Liefeld left him.

I can truly say the only reason I finished this issue was to write the review. The past few issues I’d get three pages in and give up. Why are these Daemonites kidnapping Cole, how will he save them, who is the guy that saved him, why is he doing it, is it all a dream? I know the purpose is to have you at the edge of the seat squealing in anticipation for the next issue, but when you have too many questions and no answers, it feels more like they began writing and never finished a complete thought, the ending result is incredibly boring.

The art is in the same boat. All this multicolored swat armor that is magically form-fitted to the ever-flexing calves on Cole and friends is weird, and in many panels it felt like Scott Clark, the penciler, took easy angles. Now, I admit, I don’t know if Clark is to blame or the inker, Dave Beaty, but the lines and shadows in this issue are horrendous. This science room full of science and stuff is black. Glowing screens, and black. This entire sequence involves Cole being a glowing green test tube, and amidst the surrounding light, Cole is covered in black. Then he gets busted out onto the streets… WHERE IT’S BLACK. It’s not artsy, it’s damn lazy. Then when it’s not completely black, we have those pencil-scratched shadows. When used properly it gives a comic a pretty grainy look that’s edgy and interesting. In Grifter #0, it’s distracting. The guy who saves Cash looks up in one panel and his five o’ clock shadow look like they got caked in that magnetic fuzz like Wooly Willy. Here’s a favorite of mine.

Look at that neck. That goddamn neck. This screams “I couldn’t care less about what I do.”

You know what, I feel I’m being redundant with Peter, let me make this simple. No one on this comic seems to have enjoyed making this. The dialogue was off, the story was empty, the drawing was weak, and the inks were worst of all, and none of it felt like the creators loved it for a second. If the people who made it hated, WHY SHOULD IT BE WORTH ANYONE’S TIME?

I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a more poorly-constructed comic book issue that wasn’t 100% Liefeld. No, in fact Liefeld might never do anything right in my book, but at least there are times I can tell in his work he enjoys his job no matter how terrible he is at it. This is worse than Liefeld’s Deathstroke. Didn’t know that was possible. Alright, Freakin’ Animal Man out.

Freakin’ Animal Man is a superhero with too much time on his hands. If he’s not saving the day from animal zombies, he’s reviewing comics and pretending to be vegetarian. You can read more of his material at @FreaknAnimalMan on the Twitter.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

12 comments on “Grifter 0

  1. I’m surprised to say I liked this (or at least, I don’t hate it quite as much as you guys did). It probably speaks to my incredibly low expectations more than anything, but I really like the Memento-style history-repeats-itself theme this issue establishes. There are still a lot of dumb parts, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting.

    • Yeah, honestly – most of my hang-ups where in the art. Dark, line-y faces bother me, and I COULD NOT FOLLOW the action for a couple pages when they broke out of the lab. But I found the whole thing patiently paced and I appreciated the mystery of cycling through new identities. Plus, after seeing Cash in the Superman Annual, it was nice to get even the TINIEST context for why he’d be on Helspont’s ship.

      • I do like that it somehow is connected to the Superman story. But I still don’t think that I am going to start following it, since I was also confused by the Superman Annual because that was also tied into Superman-proper.

    • Although – there’s one really close shot at like a door or a little corner of wall where the scribbling on it seem really obvious, huge and rough (page 18, bottom panel). It’s really interesting and makes me wonder why the detail doesn’t increase when we’re so much closer to the subject – in this case a door. Because I am who I am, and I read comics the way I do, I wonder if there isn’t a metaphor for Cole in there: a man who’s changed his identity enough times as to not have any sincere details of his own.

      • You know that’s not a bad idea, there being a metaphor and such, but after 13 issues, you’d think we’d see more development on that. If memory serves, in issue one, he knew exactly who he was, and so all this new stuff seems out of place. I like where you’re going Patrick, I just think that mindset is a bit too advanced for Liefeld’s story.

  2. I should clarify that this is one of my least favorite issues that I’ve suffered through to the end. In hindsight, I’m sure there are plenty worse, and I’m glad other people are enjoying the issue, but I just couldn’t say the same.

    • Did you read Deathstroke 0? I understand there’d be no reason for you to suffer through it. I think both Drew and I were wound up to just eat a big o’ bowl of rancid bloody pig shit, and were pleased was it was regular old bad-comics.

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