Appearing in "Grendel's Layer"
- Merlin Demonspawn
- Grendel's Mother / Big Mother (First appearance as Big Mother) (First full appearance)
- Red Raven
- Grendel (Mentioned)
- Geats (Mentioned)
- Arthur Pendragon (Mentioned)
- Br'er Fox (Mentioned)
- Aeschere (Mentioned)
- Hrothgar (Mentioned)
- Dragon (Mentioned)
- Diamond Comic Distributors (Mentioned)
- Etrigan (Mentioned)
- Mordecai P. Boggs
- Lana Turner (Mentioned)
- Perseus (Mentioned)
- Medusa (Mentioned)
- Wonder Woman (Diana of Themyscira) (Mentioned)
Races and Species:
- Beowulf (Mentioned)
- Excalibur (Mentioned)
- Song of the South (Mentioned)
- Three Little Pigs (Mentioned)
- a copy of Giant-Size Man-Thing #4
Synopsis for "Grendel's Layer"
At Golden Orange Comics, Red Raven - sensing that Marlo is in grave danger - manages to break free from his birdcage. His wings healed, he takes off to come to her rescue, but is unable to see the glass window and knocks himself out.
At the Comic Book Castle, Grendel's Mother towers over the assembled crowd as Merlin theatrically introduces her, gloating that the reports of her demise at the hands of Beowulf were greatly exaggerated, and that rather than having been slain with a magic sword she was merely sealed away in a floating underground prison that had made its way from Scandinavia to North America over the centuries. Marlo incredulously asks who Beowulf is, Allister and some of the other customers getting him mixed up with Br'er Fox from the Song of the South Disney cartoon. Outraged by their ignorance, Merlin snaps that Beowulf is a centuries-old epic poem written about a Scandinavian warrior-hero, furiously wondering if they were taught anything in school or were just not paying attention. As he turns to address Grendel's Mother and apologize for the lack of decent food, he's caught off-guard as she transforms into a Gigeresque humanoid form. When he incredulously asks why, Grendel's Mother replies that she changed her shape to adapt to her surroundings. Noting that she hasn't eaten since she fought Beowulf centuries ago, she asks who she should devour first, Merlin quipping that she'll find it hard to stop at just one. Choosing Allister, Grendel's Mother opens her jaws but is interrupted by Marlo, who tells her that she'll be sorry if she eats him. Confused, Grendel's Mother asks why and Marlo responds that if any of the people there are hurt then Grendel's Mother will find herself a target of the innumerable superheroes protecting the city - first and foremost Captain Marvel. As Grendel's Mother menacingly looms over her, Marlo nervously remarks that Captain Marvel is cosmically aware and will be arriving at any second.
In Las Vegas, Captain Marvel reports to Moondragon that he followed her advice and focused on Marlo, having a vision of a castle, Excalibur, and the sense that she was in great danger. Moondragon wryly remarks that she's not picking up any cosmic-level threats at Las Vegas' Excalibur Hotel and Casino, Genis asking Rick Jones what he thinks. From the Microverse, Rick refuses to help, nihilistically stating that everyone dies so it doesn't matter. Genis incredulously asks Rick if he doesn't care about his wife, Rick replying that he does but that death comes for everyone sooner or later. Furious, Genis shouts at Rick to get over himself and snap out of his depression, Rick grumbling that he's not anyone's sidekick anymore and older than all of them put together, before telling Genis that the place he's looking for is the Comics Castle. Genis continues to berate him for a moment before asking what the Comics Castle is, Rick remarking that it's a rival comic store that opened in competition with Marlo's and is probably the site of unspeakable evil. Shocked, Genis realizes they're miles away and desperately takes off with Moondragon in tow.
Elsewhere, Lorraine rings the intercom buzzer on her old apartment complex and is confronted by the superintendent, Carmine, who warns her that he has a gun and isn't afraid to use it. Awkwardly greeting him, Lorraine asks to be let up to her apartment, noting that she doesn't have any possessions. In shock and thinking she's an undead monster, Carmine grabs his shotgun and opens fire, blowing out the window of the front door and narrowly missing her. Furiously yanking his gun away, Lorraine shouts that she's not a zombie, demanding to know why he thinks she's dead. Carmine protests that he went to her funeral, watched her get cremated, and helped spread her ashes; Lorraine begrudgingly admitting that he has a point.
At the Comic Book Castle, Marlo checks her watch and assures Grendel's Mother that Captain Marvel will be arriving to fight her any second. Exasperated, Merlin commands Grendel's Mother to just eat Marlo and get it over with, the ancient monster irritably snapping at him to watch his tone when addressing her and that she's not his minion. Getting an idea, Marlo slyly states that Merlin probably thinks she is, and says that Merlin wouldn't have freed her unless something was in it for him. Realizing Marlo is right, Grendel's Mother turns to Merlin and demands to know why he freed her - boasting that she killed Aeschere, chief warrior of the Danish king Hrothgar. Merlin admits that there is indeed something he wants in return for having freed her, stating that Beowulf's final foe was a dragon whose hoard of treasure included a goblet that he believes to have been the Holy Grail, but that his magic has been unable to ascertain its location. Merlin states that once Grendel's Mother has eaten her fill of their captive audience, he wants her to lead him to it. Grendel's Mother notes that she knows the dragon of which Merlin speaks, as well as the location of its lair, but refuses to lead him to it. Merlin incredulously demands to know why not, Grendel's Mother sneering that he's a fool for assuming that just because he freed her she'll be so grateful as to do whatever he wants, reminding him that she's a monster so powerful and ancient she doesn't even have a true name to be commanded by.
As Merlin furiously prepares to cast a spell, Marlo tries to lead Al and the others to safety, only for Merlin to cast a magical barrier around the shop, stating that he's worked too long and too hard and spent too much money ordering Diamond previews to let it all go to waste. Before he can continue his tirade, Red Raven - restored to his humanoid form - attacks, Merlin incredulously asking how he escaped his transformation spell. Merlin tries to blast him, but Red Raven deflects the spell, saving Marlo from being crushed by falling debris and blasted by magic. Noticing something tampering with his barrier, Merlin looks through the hole he blew in the wall to see what's going on and is promptly attacked by Captain Marvel. Merlin fires a massive beam of magical energy and brags that he wields power dating back millennia, but Captain Marvel nullifies it and counters that his power dates all the way back to the Big Bang. Moondragon shouts for everyone to evacuate the building before it collapses, trailing off in shock as Grendel's Mother nonchalantly walks past and comments that her concern is laudable.
Flying to confront Captain Marvel directly, Merlin sneers that this is a temporary setback and that he will bend Grendel's Mother to his will. Captain Marvel remarks that he brought friends to help him, summoning a horde of other Captain Marvels.
Elsewhere in the city, Grendel's Mother marvels at the sights of the modern world, awestruck by its beauty. A voice addresses her, saying that there's a special midnight première for vampire movies before complimenting her appearance and asking if she has an agent. Looking down, Grendel's Mother sees a diminutive balding man standing at her feet and asks what he means. Introducing himself as Mordecai P. Boggs, the fast-talking man says that he could make her the biggest - in every sense of the word - star in showbiz, with all the fame and glory she desires. Taken in by his words, Grendel's Mother commands Boggs to tell her more.
In the sky over Los Angeles, Merlin shoots down the myriad Captain Marvels with a volley of homing light beams and sneers that they're illusions. As he mockingly asks if Captain Marvel really expected him to fall for such an obvious ruse, Captain Marvel strikes him from behind and says that he did. Moondragon hits Merlin with a psi-blast, dismissing him as a charlatan. Enraged, Merlin wreathes himself in magic energy, Rick Jones quipping to Captain Marvel that his villainous rant is clichéd and that he should reflect Merlin's attack back at him. Captain Marvel wonders where he'll find a reflective surface, Rick Jones instructing him to pull a Wonder Woman and use the Nega-Bands. Merlin predictably launches a massive torrent of dark energy at Captain Marvel, who accidentally deflects it towards Red Raven. The beam bounces off Red Raven's wings towards Moondragon, who redirects it back at Merlin.
As Rick snidely asks if Captain Marvel meant to turn the deflection into a four-cushion shot, Marlo walks up to Red Raven and asks who he is. Pulling off his helmet, the Red Raven reveals he's Al, who states the armor was just sitting there on display so he figured he'd put it on. At that moment the real Red Raven, returned to human form with Merlin's defeat, walks up to them using an issue of Giant-Size Man-Thing as an innuendo-laden censor and asks Al to give him his armor back before he's arrested for indecent exposure.
The next day at Golden Orange Comics, Al turns on the television and calls the others over, stating that the "scary monster chick" is on TV. Rick recognizes his old agent Mordecai Boggs and quips that that's even scarier. On the TV, Boggs gleefully announces that Grendel's Mother has signed a five-year wrestling contract under the gimmick of "Big Mother" and will change the face of wrestling, Grendel's Mother stating that she'll literally eat her opponents alive. Marlo asks if this is a happy ending, Rick remarking that it's close enough to one as far as he's concerned. Marlo protests that they never learned what became of Merlin, Rick quipping that super-villain fates are sometimes like the military: don't ask, don't tell.
In the ruins of the Comic Book Castle, Merlin - trapped inside his own crystal ball - screams in rage.