Comic Book Throwback Review – Grifter #1 (Image/DC Comics)

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Grifter #1

Writer: Steve Seagle
Pencils: Ryan Benjamin
Inks: Tom McWeeney
Colors: Wendy Fouts
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Publisher: Image/DC Comics
Maturity Rating: Teen +

Grifter is out on his own, just the way he likes it, but everyone needs somebody. But who can the Grifter turn to in a time of need?


Grit Your Teeth With Grifter #1

Another Comic Book Throwback Review is here! Today we are going back to 1995. If you read my review of Superboy #1, you might remember me saying something along the lines of “There are some good ’90s comics. They are not all extreme and high-octane fuel”. Well… Grifter #1 is not one of those ’90s comics. Grifter #1 is more of one of those “’90s comic books” you picture in your head. Mostly all the bad stuff. That doesn’t mean it is terrible. That also doesn’t mean it is very good, either.

Grifter #1 (Image/DC Comics) cover
Grifter #1 (Image/DC Comics) cover

Now, Grifter is a character I know nothing about besides the visual. Which, I think, is the only reason you see him from time to time. That simple mask is pretty cool-looking. But through my years I have never read anything with Grifter and have no clue what he is all about. Turns out I probably could have made an educated guess and been 75% right. Loner, former soldier—that is about the gist we get from this issue.


Steve Seagle writes Grifter #1 and apparently this issue is a tie-in to another ongoing something? Which is always excellent for a #1 issue. Let’s make this #1 issue chapter 5 of a story arc that cuts through all kinds of different series! Makes perfect sense. Anyway, Grifter is a character from the old Image days and the WildC.A.T.s group. He was the first one to get his own series.

I try to be open-minded and not to judge, but Grifter #1 is exactly what you would think it would be, being an Image book from the ’90s (I guess technically now DC Comics since they have the WildC.A.T.s Universe). It starts out with Grifter walking down a street, hat backwards, smoking, long trench coat; you get the picture. Seagle starts with a classic line of “life really sucks sometimes. Things can look great at noon and be totally jacked by midnight”. So, we are in for a long ride here.

The Demons

Just trying to patch together what is happening is fun. Apparently Grifter is on the run. He has quit all his teams, so he is all alone. He constantly reminds us that he is a loner, you know, a “grifter”. Seagle makes sure to get that point across several times in 23 pages. Anyway, Grifter gets attacked by these Daemonite alien things, which have some of the worst-looking armor ever. Grifter gets injured and is trying to find the aptly-named character “Deathblow”.

That is about all the story. Now, Seagle does do a good job of delivering some information about Grifter. He is losing blood and almost dies several times, so his “life flashes before his eyes”. It was a creative way to give us some background detail on the character.

Look, I love me some goofy dialogue. My reviews of the bronze age Ghost Rider tell you that. But something about this self-serious, tough-man dialogue from these ’90s eras books is just groan-inducing. Maybe because it doesn’t feel genuine, and is a bit forced. Like, if the story were more dramatic I might take lines like “Takes a certain guy to suffer a major wound and keep on fighting…I’m that kind of guy” more seriously. Grifter #1 is just hard to take seriously. The dialogue is cringeworthy, and not in a fun way.

The Mask

Look, as I stated earlier, the mask design for Grifter is cool; we can all agree on that and it is probably the major reason he got semi-popular. There are some storytelling problems with Grifter #1 and that mask. So, we get a scene where he puts on the mask and the bad guys throw some gas at him. Grifter notes the mask has some fiber to block the gases, which is all well and good, comic book stuff. But the art clearly shows tears/holes in his mask from the fight and also, the very next panel when he says that about the mask, the art shows the mask floating up above his mouth, showing his bottom lip and teeth.

I am no scientist but I’m pretty sure that’s not how gas-proof masks work, no matter what fiber they are made out of. Plus, living in the time we live in, most everyone knows now how surgical, scarves and N95 masks work and are different. Grifter’s mask ain’t making a tight enough seal to hold anything out.

Explosion Time

The art in Grifter #1 is not absolutely terrible. Ryan Benjamin pencils, Tom McWeeney inks, Wendy Fouts colors, and Bill Oakley letters. It definitely has that ’90s angular style; everything is very sharp and in that in-your-face perspective. It does have some good detail and there are some fun layouts in the issue. 

Just from a storytelling perspective, the art isn’t anything to clamor about. The book is supposed to be high-octane action, and the art portrays that, to a point, but it doesn’t exactly deliver any emotion from that to me, the reader. It is just big explosions and guns shooting. I don’t really feel anything from what is happening or care about it much.

Usually, I don’t talk about lettering a lot unless it is something different, or good, or bad. The onomatopoeia in Grifter #1 is very distracting. I don’t know what it is about it. I think it might be the style of font and the different colors that feel like it should be in a ’60s comic. It just feels very out of place in a lot of different scenes.

The Grifter

Look, I was a ’90s kid and I am sure 8-year-old me would have thought this was rad in 1995, but 33-year-old me is reading this, and it bored and confused me. I don’t want to stereotype ’90s comics anymore than they already are. There are some great ones in this era. The same as with every era, there are stinkers in all of them. Grifter #1 just happens to play into just about every ’90s comic stereotype. The storytelling is not very good and I lost my interest in this character after two pages. It is all a bit too self-serious and just not for me. I’ll give it 1.5 explosions out of 5.

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