This article is part of a series of reviews of webcomics and independent comic books. Today, I review Bigfoot: Sword of the Earthman #4 by Brewhouse Press.
Um, yeah, what to say about Issue #4 of Bigfoot: Sword of the Earthman (written by Josh S. Henaman, line art by Andy Taylor, color by Thomas Bonvillain)? I can tell you this: I won’t be able to say whatever it is I have to say without revealing some big spoilers, so consider yourself warned.
As a recap, Bigfoot was summoned to Mars from Earth by the hunted and persecuted Council of the Blue to Mars, because reasons. He hooks up with a bard/conman named Castor Bagworm, and the two escape captivity under the tyrannical Lord Jeoffa. After two more hair-raising escapes – once from the army of Lord Jeoffa’s rival Queen Mara and then from Malona the Damned, queen of the moth-vampires – Bigfoot gets separated from Castor.
We learn more when Castor stumbles into a place called the Turonian Jungle, where he stumbles into the clutches of a band of poachers/bounty hunters. For instance, we learn that much of Mars (maybe all of it) has been at constant war with itself for at least a thousand years, after the heirs of King Fain of the Red started fighting for the remains of his kingdom. Imagine a civil war on Earth that’s raged since the Norman invasion of England, and you have some idea of what Mars has been through. We also learn that Mars is dying; the Turonian Jungle, for instance, is only a fraction of its former size.
Castor manages to escape briefly with a member of the Council of the Blue, before both are captured by the barbarian king Korovan Muspin, in Lord Jeoffa’s employ. For instance, the Council of the Blue summoned Lord Jeoffa, the way they summoned Bigfoot, to end the civil war on Mars.
That plan didn’t go quite the way they planned…
Oh ho ho ho, you didn’t expect that, did you, Mister and Missus Consumer of Pop Culture? You were expecting just another Thrilling Fantasy Epic: you know, a little smash-mouth, a little Dejah Thoris in a Fashions-by-Frazetta swimsuit. You had your taste buds set for speculative fiction junk food, made even junk-foodier with Bigfoot. Instead, you got a big heaping plate of genocide with a side of planetary biocide.
This twist raises a number of troubling points:
- The current paucity of life, civilization and decent Thai restaurants on Mars would suggest that someone – possibly even our big lovable inert lump of a hero Bigfoot – has fulfilled the Council of the Blue’s plans for the planet…
- … which means you’re probably going to have to Bid a Tearful Farewell to all those Bigfoot: SOTE characters that you’ve invested so much time and emotion in, like Castor and, um, Castor…
- … which also means that the poor, persecuted Council of the Blue may have a damn good reason for being persecuted…
- … which also ALSO means that maybe teh eebuls like Lord Jeoffa have a damn good reason for being so eebul, or at least aren’t as monolithic and faceless as you’d like them to be.
That’s what happens when you mess with Sasquatch, though. You can only pull so many beef jerky-related pranks on him before he goes all Third Impact on you.
I can honestly say that I haven’t had many WTF moments in my comics-reading career. I can also say that learning that about Bigfoot was one of those moments.
I can’t even attribute my shock to Bigfoot’s passivity, which I’ve mentioned before. Characters change, and anyway he started to shake that off last issue.
This revelation torpedoed me precisely because Henaman did such a good job of setting up a false dichotomy in the first three issues: Lord Jeoffa, bad guy, unarmed mystics, good guys. It’s Caligula vs. the Christians – even Bigfoot is sort of kind of a Christ-like figure – and it’s an archetype that Westerners instantly latch on to, even when it’s wrong.
I have to applaud Henaman for tripping me up, but then that’s par for the course for Bigfoot: SOTE. It continues to defy expectations. Any other writer – including me! – would have turned Bigfoot on Mars into a name-checking geektastic groanfest. Oh look! It’s Bigfoot! And John Carter of Mars! And they’re roommates! And half of the comic is video game references! (Actually, that would’ve been the webcomic…)
Henaman’s taking this seriously, though. He’s built a world with a history and fleshed-out characters, just like you’d find in any serious fantasy comic. Taylor and Bonvillain have played it straight up the middle, too, making Bigfoot: SOTE one of the most gorgeous independent comics on the market. Their work in Issue #4, after stumbling a bit in the previous two issues, is some of the best in the series to date.
But, damn, guys, you sure know how to bring a guy down.
I was having fun with the fighting and the running and Bigfoot sleeping – well, okay, the fighting and the running – and the whole black/white shtick went down easy as mother’s milk. I like to rant about wanting more adult and complex comics, but even so I enjoyed the big dumb adventures of big dumb Bigfoot and his weasely sidekick. It was like Conan the Destroyer with a better script and more bodily hair.
Now you want me to consider shades of grey? That maybe Bigfoot’s here as a destroyer instead of a liberator and that murderous tyrants like Lord Jeoffa sometimes represent the best of all possible worlds?
That’s a trip into some grimdark territory, and in the failing days of summer, with autumn and then winter around the corner, it’s not a trip I’m sure I want to take.
Bigfoot: Sword of the Earthman #3 is available in print for $3.99 at Brewhouse Press’ online store or as an e-book for 99 cents through Amazon, iTunes and Graphicly. I’ll be taking off the next two weeks or so from reviews to move. Stay tuned, true believers!