It’s no spoiler to say that this is an entire issue dedicated to the Sword of Sorcery backup star Beowulf. I’m very interested in this version that’s been reintroduced into the New-52 (Beowulf has actually appeared before in DC Comics both in his own book and in the pages of Wonder Woman). Beowulf is pulled through a time portal into the present where he hunts a shape-changing beast that takes on the forms of the DCU’s most prominent heroes. He’s aided by a prominent professor of Archaeometry, which absolutely IS a real thing, Prof. Gwendolyn Pierce (someone should make her a page). While confused by his new surroundings, particularly the existence of major cities that have ceased to exist in his time, Beowulf is focused on slaying the monster that brought him through the time portal, no matter what form it’s taken.
The writing in this book is solid under Tony Bedard, Beowulf is suitably disoriented, but not to a comedic or unrealistic extent, by his new surroundings. Prof. Pierce is likewise in awe of the massive super-soldier, but not to the extent that she can’t handle herself or explain the way of things to her new compatriot. The art by Javier Pina and Jason Wright works overtime to bring these characters to life, particularly for a title that has a very uneven artistic reputation. The action is straight out of the best Conan book, but with the very interesting twist of having characters in the present and future, and it actually reflects that in its aesthetic. Even panels that have the characters in the distance have a great amount of detail and every single page, regardless of whether it’s action, exposition, or motion looks like it has a great deal of effort and care behind it. The book also ends on a particularly effective cliff-hanger that leaves me hopeful for the future of the two main characters.
It’s no secret that comic book covers have a reputation for being deceitful. There are entire websites dedicated to the fact that covers used to have literally NOTHING to do with what happened on the interiors, but that particular tradition has waned in the past. I say waned, but not disappeared entirely as the “WTF” Gatefolds seem ready and willing to revive the tradition. I mentioned it in regards to Batman and Robin last week and I’m mentioning it again in regards to this book this week: the gatefold cover is ALMOST entirely false. Beowulf is in the book, but he’s not fighting the DCU’s most prominent heroes, he’s fighting a creature that can look like them. And not all at once, either. This wouldn't be a complaint except for the fact that it completely changes the tone and content of the book, rather than being about a man out of time who comes into conflict with the current heroes of the DCU, it’s about a man hunting a monster that can look like them. That combined with the fact that this story did not need to be told across twenty pages, but could have EASILY been the backup of a larger book, makes this book hard to recommend 100%. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very well-written, it’s just not very efficiently written. Honestly? If it weren't for the art, this book would have scored lower.
This book is a great introduction to anyone who wants to meet the (very likely) stars of another New-52 book, but who hasn't been keeping up with Sword of Sorcery. Considering that book is getting cancelled, there's a fairly clear through line for Beowulf to burst onto the scene. It's a fairly novel approach to the character as well (futuristic, monster hunting super-soldier)