A year ago, "Grifter" #1 debuted with Nathan Edmondson and CAFU. With "Grifter" #0, we've had an entire creative team turnover with Rob Liefeld, Frank Tieri, Scott Clark and Dave Beaty. Starting next month, Liefeld is also off the title. Stability is hardly a word that could be assigned to "Grifter," it seems. While the future of "Grifter" and what it's like is slightly up in the air, this month serves up a solid, middle-of-the-road experience for the reader.
The story is pretty simple, with Cole Cash being broken out of a secret lab where he's been dumped in a tube and scientists are trying to reprogram him, while Cole himself is deep in a virtual reality world to occupy his time. On the upside, it's easy to follow as Liefeld's plot shows what was happening to Cole during his missing 17 days right before "Grifter" #1. On the downside, for a new reader there isn't that much meat provided. The people experimenting on him aren't given any real personality, so you ultimately won't care that much about them as antagonists. The guy who breaks Cole out is the ultimate enigma stock character, from mysterious phrases down to even wearing a hood to help disguise himself. With readers theoretically using DC's issue #0s to sample a new series, this isn't the most exciting way to come back for issue #13.
On the other hand, Clark and Beaty's art is the best I think I've seen from the duo. The early scene of Grifter running across the rooftop with Max Cash and John Lynch is energetic, with just a little bit of a squiggle in the inks that brings to mind artists like Bill Sienkiewicz. Once we've seen the reveal of Grifter in his tube, the next page serves up a great portrait of Grifter with tubes extending from his head and neck; there's a lot of beautiful cross-hatching and lots of little details down to the eyelashes on his face. The duo really elevate the comic as a whole; near the end I found myself not caring that much about the plot, but I kept reading because I was impressed with the look of the book.
Where "Grifter" goes from here is anyone's best guess; Tieri was only scripting over Liefeld's plots, so presumably he (or another writer to be announced) could take the series in an entirely different direction. For now, though, it's a book where once you balance out the great art and the simplistic story, you end up with an average comic. On the bright side, it shouldn't inspire any ire. On the down side, average comics are also easily forgotten. Hopefully whatever happens next to "Grifter," it'll live up to the promise and potential of the series that we saw in those early issues. For now, though, it's not quite there.