Eric Powell and Tim Weisch’s world in “Big Man Plans” is one of harsh truths and unforgivably mean people. In the backmatter, Weisch explains that the story will be steeped in very dark themes throughout the run, where comeuppance and vengeance will reign and not everyone will be likeable. They keep true to that promise in this first issue as the protagonist, referred to only as Big Man when not called other cruel epithets, takes the reader on a journey through his past, which is full of suffering and pain that hardens a well-meaning innocent boy into a dog of war, a man without direction in a post-Vietnam War America that has no need for the vicious skills which he develops.
In these pages, people are pushed around by the world; very few are in charge of their own destinies. Their only option is to push back harder and hurt the world for hurting them. Big Man cuts a swatch of violence through the issue, illustrated in Powell’s gorgeous pencil-shaded detail. The style he developed in “The Goon” is still recognizable here but shifted ever so slightly from a noir flavor to an exploitation influence. The colors are like those from the 35mm print of a Times Square grindhouse film. The reader can almost see the cigarette burns on the end of each reel.
From maternal abandonment to foster care beatings to Army rejection, Big Man has been knocked around and his outlook is one where he feels returning the pain is the only way to speak to the world around him. It’s very dark but the team finds ways to use these black situations and give them a humorous slant. The book opens with Big Man leaving a grenade as a tip for an insulting bartender and sucker punching a child as the bar detonates behind him, and there are some ridiculous low-brow gags in both script and art. Readers familiar with Powell’s previous works will find more to love here, and the illustrations are as gorgeous as ever. The pacing of the script flows well even with the majority of the issue taking place in flashback.
The one downside of the book is the lack of information surrounding Big Man’s modern day motivation. He’s stirred to action by a letter he received from an unnamed source that seems unnecessarily hidden from the reader. Not having that information left the opening chapter feeling like a pile of cruelty without much balance. There is someone or something close to him that is forcing his hand, but the reader is kept at a distance from the start due to the lack of the knowledge about what that person or thing means to him. Once this information is made available, the overall feel will certainly even out but, for now, it makes his drive seem like unfocused vengeance.
Given the pedigree of the creative team, there’s no reason to think that this book won’t be a fun, bloody romp. There’s still plenty of story left to go and, with Big Man’s tendencies put on display in this issue, this creative team is going to be doing a lot of violent heightening as the tale moves forward. “Big Man Plans” #1 is well worth a look.