The second of the Wildstorm titles to pop up in the DC relaunch, a “Grifter” solo book made some sense in that it takes the most popular member of the WildC.A.T.S. and sets him on his own adventures. A cool mercenary-type guy travelling the world, shooting things, blowing stuff up, and being a badass sounds like a fun, entertaining comic, especially with Nathan Edmondson writing and CAFU on art. What “Grifter” #1 is, in fact, is a strange, puzzling mess of a book that’s a square one reboot of the character. All that remains is his name, his look, and a small part of his past, so don’t expect the Cole Cash you remember.
Stripping the character down is something of a necessity by bringing him into the DCU along with the rest of the Wildstorm characters. After all, there’s no secret Daemonite war, no WildC.A.T.S., and no Team Seven, leaving much of the character’s backstory blank. At the same time, losing those details doesn’t necessarily mean that the character needs a complete overhaul where little recognizable remains.
The Cole Cash here is a smalltime grifter who finds himself kidnapped by mysterious beings and that he’s lost 17 minutes (or is 17 hours or 17 days?). He can hear the creatures in his head and is trying to escape while they pursue him, trying to kill him. In the process, he has to fake an act of terrorism on a plane and barely makes it out alive.
Purposefully mysterious, the story still seems full of holes. The con that Cash was running is barely seen, who he is beyond ‘con man’ isn’t fleshed out, and the entire thing is driven by him fleeing those creatures that look like humans. So much is left unknown and that detracts from the central mystery of what those creatures are. The rest of the world here isn’t complete enough for that absence to be worth noting. Cash, for example, is highly capable in a physical fight and we’re told is a former Delta Forces soldier and, yet, his reaction to defending himself is one of someone who has never been in a fight before, let alone probably done some fairly nasty stuff. Is he an innocent that has to become something more to save himself or an experienced soldier reawakened? The comic doesn’t know!
Even the promise of CAFU art is disappointing. Without regular inker Bit, CAFU’s line work doesn’t come through with the same force as usual. Jason Gorder seems to prefer a lighter touch, which allows the coloring to overwhelm the line art at times. Even that’s not consistent throughout, leading to some panels looking like they were almost colored straight from the pencils to ones where CAFU is the dominant visual force. Beneath that is CAFU’s usual charm and energy with fantastic action shots and the ability to capture a surprised look better than most. Nonetheless, it’s a step down from his recent work on “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents,” which is one of the reasons why he’s so well regarded at DC right now.
So much is left undefined in “Grifter” #1 that it doesn’t function well as an introduction to the character and has changed so much about the character that those familiar with him will be left scratching their heads over who he is at this point. With a big mystery at the center of the book, questions over who exactly the protagonist is are not needed.