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Grifter #1 by Ammar Al Subahi

Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Nathan Edmondson
Artist: Cafu
Inker: Jason Gorder
Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse
Cover: Cafu & Bit

Overall: 2.5/5 stars

Premise: Ex Delta Operator turned con-artist, Cole Cash, unexpectedly finds himself in the middle of a secret alien invasion.

The New DC Universe reviews continue, and this week we take a look at the first issue of Grifter; a gun toting buttkicker from an alternative universe (the Wildstorm universe, named after the original publishing company) next to the "main" DC universe where the likes of Batman and Superman lived. What makes this issue interesting is that as of the new reboot, the Wildstorm characters have been incorporated into the main DCU, so Grifter's adventures take place in the same world as the JLA. With that in mind, let's see how Grifter figures in to the grand scheme of the new DCU.

The book begins with Cole boarding a plane. He's hearing voices talking to him saying they're out after him. Naturally, he starts freaking out (who wouldn't?), and shortly after, some passengers start attacking him. Who are these people, and why are they after Cole? We find out by cutting to right before the incident: After successfully conning a businessman of some sorts, Cole gets kidnapped by some mysterious assailant. He wakes up on a hospital bed in an abandoned warehouse and finds himself plugged up to a bizzarre looking creature in a stasis tube of some sort. Apparently, they want to transfer the creature's conscience into Cole's body. Cole escapes before the procedure finishes, but it has left him with the ability to "hear" their conversations. Which leaves us where we started: Cole on the run from this mysterious creatures and the government who thinks he's a terrorist.

The concept driving this book is quite simple and very strong: one man becomes aware of an impending alien invasion and has to stop it. He acquires the ability to spot these aliens, but because they disguise themselves as humans, people think he's a lunatic. We've seen this before in John Carpenter's 1988 movie They Live. The problem here is the execution: there's too much background information lingering around in a decompressed issue. Why did Cole quit the military -- which was poorly conveyed in a page consisting of nothing but exposition, by the way -- only to begin the life of a con-artist? Has he forgotten his past somehow, a la Bourne Identity? This issue seems to suggest so at first, as Cole freaks out after effortlessly killing an alien in disguise during his escape. But then he doesn't question how he's able to survive the later attacks, and even pulls out his trademark mask in the last page, basically taking on the challenge.

Throughout the book, Edmondson is trying to intrigue the reader by introducing several mysteries. But it's too messy, and too convoluted. Do we really need all the other stuff? I'm thinking this issue would've been better if we'd just started with Grifter waking up in a hospital bed, his memories erased or fuzzy because of the incomplete procedure, and just go from that point on. Skip the whole con-artist thing. Reveal his past bit by bit later on. Yeah, it's been done. But at least it would've worked.

Now, mind you, I know absolutely nothing about Grifter's original origin as I've only read one or two issues from the Wildstorm line before the major reboot. But this is supposed to be a fresh start aimed at attracting completely new readers. So if the issue is that I'm simply not "getting it," then obviously this issue is a failure, as any pre-existing knowledge is supposed to increase my enjoyment of the issue, and not be the sole basis of it.

The art is pretty good, though. Very sharp and detailed pencils by Cafu. Hard inking by Gorder (personal preference). And some really rich coloring by Dalhouse. The last page specifically is really good looking, artwise. But I'm worried that since this is supposed to be a darker book, the scenery will try to match the intended tone by setting it in darker environments. And I was rather impressed by artwork on the day/light scenes rather than the night/dark scenes.

This book is absolutely not terrible, but the overall problems are too frustrating for me. So far, this book is simply (and barely) "OK."