I'm seriously behind on reviewing stuff, but I hope to catch up in the next few weeks, beginning with this fun comic!
Josh Henaman has been nice enough to send me every issue of Bigfoot: Sword of the Earthman, and I've been reviewing them as I get them. When he sent me the sixth issue, I wanted to sit down and re-read the entire thing, because the gaps between issues have been rather big (the first issue came out in November 2012). Even though I'm a bit disappointed with the way the book ended (I understand why it ended the way it did, but I'm still a bit disappointed), the comic is a nice roller coaster ride and worth a look. It's written by Henaman, drawn by Andy Taylor, and colored by Tamra Bonvillain. Each issue is $3.99, and it's published by Brew House Comics, which you can also find on Facebook.
Henaman throws us into the story in issue #1 with Bigfoot (the "Earthman," as he's called throughout the series) already on Mars, and he waits quite a while before telling us how he got there.
In fact, we begin on the first few pages even past the main story, which is told entirely in flashback. Bigfoot is just chillin' on Mars, and then Henaman flashes back to earlier, when he met Castor, a member of the scribe caste, who's usually called "Bagworm" because he's the lowest level of the scribe caste. He's a cad, in other words, always looking for a quick buck and always spinning lies to get his way. Castor narrates the story, because Henaman wisely never lets Bigfoot speak - we don't even find out if he can speak in this series. In issue #1, we find out that the Big Bad, Lord Jeoffa, is interested in Bigfoot for some reason, and also that he's trying to take over Mars. You know, just like a megalomaniacal despot. Those guys and their dreams of conquest! Castor and Bigfoot are captives of Lord Jeoffa, but in issue #1, they escape, and so begin their adventures through the many wild places of Mars. There's a battle in the desert, an underground fight against a six-armed queen who wants to use Bigfoot as her sex slave, a trip into the jungles, where Castor finds out why Bigfoot is on Mars, and finally, a return to Lord Jeoffa's city, where things get violent. Henaman doles out information slowly and cleverly, jumping around quite a bit but always staying on point, so that small details from earlier in the book come back to be quite useful later on. Issues #1-4 are somewhat self-contained, too, even though Henaman is clearly leading to the big fight at the end. By the time we get to issue #5, Castor and Bigfoot have been through some troubles, and while they're not exactly friends (Bigfoot, in addition to never speaking, doesn't even seem to register that Castor exists most of the time), they do have a bond, one that is sorely tested in issue #5 when Lord Jeoffa tries to buy Castor off (naturally, Castor doesn't take the money) and then later, when things really hit the fan. By the end of issue #5, Bigfoot is ready to be the warrior all the Martians have thought he was going to be earlier. Henaman does a nice job getting him to that point, and it feels like the important turning point in his life that it is. Henaman doesn't get there cheaply.
In issue #6, Bigfoot fights Korovan, Lord Jeoffa's main thug, and Henaman generally gets out of the way and lets Taylor do the storytelling. There's an appearance of a character from earlier in the book that seems to come out of nowhere - a female slave who Bigfoot had rescued but who had been recaptured, so I'm not quite sure where she came from in issue #6 - but she provides some crucial assistance to Bigfoot. It's a brutal fight, and Henaman provides some interesting clues about Bigfoot and Lord Jeoffa and hints at a connection between them (which we could already assume, but Henaman makes it a bit more explicit in the final issue). However, what disappoints me a bit is that Henaman doesn't finish the story.
Lord Jeoffa is beaten, but certainly not defeated, and so we get a "to be continued" at the end of the issue. Now, we were never promised that this would be a self-contained six-issue mini-series, so Henaman didn't pull a fast one on anyone, but it still feels like all that was coming should have been wrapped up. We began the story with Bigfoot in the "present," clothed like a warrior, so the fact that this is only the first step on that journey is a bit vexing. It's mainly annoying because of the length of time it took Henaman and company to get these six issues out, and there's no guarantee that any more will actually come out. I love the ambition of the creators, but I fear the reality. And I want to know what's going on, dang it!
As I noted, Taylor does a lot of the heavy lifting in issue #6. Taylor's art is solid throughout the series - it's nothing too spectacular, as occasionally it's very sketchy, but in certain places he does some very nice work. Issue #6 relies on him, and he acquits himself well. The second page is a terrific splash page of Bigfoot tearing through the evil soldiers - Taylor has been good at the violence throughout the book, but the page is unbelievably brutal and really well drawn. When Bigfoot begins fighting Korovan, Taylor lays out the fight well, as they battle back and forth through the scaffolding (Lord Jeoffa is building a monument to himself) and then onto the monument itself. Taylor gives us some nice expansive views, with Korovan and Bigfoot on top the statue, and tightens the focus well when he has to, as the fighting becomes more and more brutal. Bigfoot wins, of course (I'm avoiding some of the spoilers, but the book is called Bigfoot, after all, not Korovan), and Taylor gives us two excellent pages showing his triumph and his rage. Taylor's figure work is still stiff, which means the fights in the comic don't flow as well as in some books, but he knows how to choreograph a battle, and the one in issue #6 is pretty epic. The best thing about it is that Taylor makes it clear the toll it takes on both combatants and even the surroundings (there's a nice joke about the face on Mars in one panel). Henaman has done a good job building to a point where the fight is going to feel epic, and Taylor delivers quite well on that feeling.
Henaman, Taylor, and Bonvillain (who does solid if unspectacular work on the colors) have put together a rollicking adventure story, and that they manage to make it a quasi-buddy comedy even though one of the characters never talks is fairly impressive. Castor and Bigfoot make an unlikely team, but unlike so many other mismatched teams that have mawkish emotional scenes when the two people realize they like each other, Henaman doesn't go that route (although there's one scene that comes close, but I don't want to spoil it), mainly because Bigfoot doesn't seem to be part of the equation for so long.
Castor is using Bigfoot for protection and possibly profit (depending on his situation), but even he's not completely cynical. So we get a nice, odd relationship that, when it comes to a head in issues #5 and 6, feels like something that would happen. So even in the middle of this grand adventure (and it's very much in the vein of Burroughs and Haggard and London and all those other manly Victorian/Edwardian writers), Henaman does a good job injecting some humanity and Taylor does a nice job showing how these two characters react to each other. I'm not sure how the story will work going forward based on some of the events in issues #5 and 6, but for this arc, it works quite well.
I'm not sure if there's a trade for the arc yet - I know Henaman is planning one, but it doesn't appear to be out yet. You can head on over to the web site to buy the issues, if you're interested. Bigfoot: Sword of the Earthman is an entertaining, exciting comic that has some nice surprises. Taylor's art, as I noted, can be a bit rough, but for the most part, it's pretty good, and he does quite well with the main character and his enigmatic expressions, which is important when he doesn't talk. There's a lot to like about the series, and my disappointment with the way it "ends" is, after all, a "me" problem. If Henaman, Taylor, and Bonvillain can come back with more entertaining issues as Bigfoot discovers more about his role on Mars, then of course my disappointment will vanish. I just hope they can!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆