Geof Darrow! WHERE ARE YOU?!?!

*Piping hot new column up. This time, I learn that comics creators are real people just like you and me. There’s also roman numerals, so you know it’s a classy piece of literature that will resonate throughout time. Get in on the ground floor.

*Hey! I’d not linked to the blog of Comics Journal, Comic Book Galaxy, and Movie Poop Shoot veteran Christopher Allen, a fine comics critic and writer! BUT NOW I HAVE! Go an' read.

Bigfoot #1-2 (of 4)

Nothing like slapping down a solid $8 (before tax!) for two issues worth of good mucky exploitation fun. And let’s give credit where credit’s due: IDW is clearly trying to deliver a superior product for their premium price (actually, as a bit of an aside, it’s amusing to me how much attention Marvel is currently getting regarding the twenty-five cent increase on only books squatting at the bottom tier of the pricing scale, when independent publishers like IDW and Avatar seem to be settling down on a uniform $4 price point for their color 32-page works, which perhaps signals an industry ‘standard’ alteration among even the more action/horror-minded areas of color independent publishing, to say nothing of artcomics or self-publishing - ah, but I forget, they’re not Marvel or DC). To paraphrase old (?) saying, the only comic that’s too expensive is the one that isn’t good, and IDW’s work succeeds in providing a good presentation: all of the ads are relegated to the back, the books design radiates professionalism and gloss, and there’s even bonus back-up prose fiction in every issue of this particular title. Yep, honest-to-god short stories, albeit sometimes cleverly based on other IDW series, giving it a dandy cross-pollination back-up effect. For the record, IDW Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall’s “30 Days of Night” piece in issue #2 is much better than Dan Taylor’s ultra-generic vampire-hunting short in issue #1, though neither are particularly mind-thrashing. Still, these little stories add bits of reading time to the book and provide a fair diversion, and take the edge off the premium fee.

I’m just not entirely convinced that the main story itself is quite worth the cash, though it’s far from awful. It’s co-written by IDW stalwart Steve Niles and noted horror/exploitation film enthusiast Rob Zombie, and while both men seem to share an affinity for ye olde horror tropes mixed in with bits of humor, I’d say the slightly grittier, measurably sleazier atmosphere in this book reflects a bit more Zombie than Niles, at least in vintage grindhouse influence.

The saga begins in 1973 on a camping ground within the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Little Billy has his head filled with comics and seems perturbed at his parents’ frisky ways (“Mom! Don‘t call Dad your little baby. That‘s queer! What‘s going on here?”). But this magical and idyllic outdoors excursion comes to an appalling end when no less than the infamous Bigfoot bursts through the walls of the cabin as Billy’s folks prepare for lovemaking (amusingly, the monster brutally punishes a couple for their amorous ways, as per genre convention, except that the couple here is long-married and within a monogamous relationship - no matter to Bigfoot!). Right in front of poor Billy’s eyes, his poppa is killed in a viciously gory fashion and his mother is dragged away in her nudity to the monster’s lair for heaven knows what. Well… actually Billy does seem to know ‘what’, as he dreams of the monster having replaced his father in his tender life. As years pass, the monster continues his reign of terror, mashing teenage quad riders to hamburger and crushing local motorists under catapulted grizzly bear corpses. Only the now-grown and none-too-adjusted Billy, himself married and a father, can possibly confront the beast. Did I mention that the local sheriff seems to be covering up the monster’s activities throughout the years? And that he doesn’t seem to age over the course of three decades? And that he face sort of resembles Bigfoot’s? And that after Bigfoot’s right eye is injured the corresponding eye on the sheriff’s face is always kept in shadow except for one panel where it seems a bit more squinty than his other eye? Is the book drawing connections between two monsters, or tipping its hand a wee bit early? U, gentle readers, decide.

And that’s half of the series done with.

But it’s fun, provided that one is simpatico with the slime-ball cult horror vibe of the piece. I for one can practically hear the chintzy English dubbing over Italian lip movements while making my way through these books, and the gore/chase scenes are well-mounted and crisp. And so very much of that credit can only go to artist Richard Corben, possibly the most perfect visual choice for this material imaginable. His round, oh-so-slightly caricatured humans flee with grace and vigor from the marvelously mangy title beastie. The action is fast, with panel borders breaking down as the cast becomes more panicked, and he knows when to employ tiny touches like a barking dog’s hollow glowing dot-eyes, or neighbors peeping out the window at an unclothed housewife running from her shower. Nicely complementary hues by no less than three colorists (Martin Breccia and Nestor Pereyra across the board, and with Tom B. Long joining the squad with issue #2).

So it’s a fun, mean little monster-mash, pleasantly disreputable horror. But it’s gonna remain up to you if this sort of thing is worth the cash that IDW is asking for, not an insubstantial sum. It’s good that the book is relatively lavish, and fun, and utterly without weight, since its appearance and execution is geared toward such a scale. But the costs of fun are going up, and one should be aware of exactly what sort of fun one is expecting for their four dollars, until such a price becomes such a standard that such things are only unconsciously considered. As it is now, I liked it, hit to the pocket as it may be.

Wild Girl #5 (of 6)

The structure is maintained in this issue. I’ll grant this to “Wild Girl”: it’s intent on not stretching its plot to six issue of trade-ready material by engaging in gratuitous set-up or interminable conversation. Much of this book, especially the last three issues, involves our title heroine chatting with some animal pals, then going on some sort of mild quest (climb a structure, investigate a greenhouse, survive the sewers), always interrupted by a ravishing J.H. Williams III-illustrated interlude, then we have a tiny bit of falling action regarding the incremental progression of the larger plot. Not bad choices, but the problem is that even with such quests and journeys scattered throughout, the book still feels like it’s only biding time, though in a less explicit and arguably more attractive way than average for today’s comics.

This issue, the newly uniformed heroine is on her way to rescue her baby brother from the clutches of the assuredly wicked though barely defined Dog Man. The quickest route into action is through the sewers, so she drops in and encounters a big crocodile (alligator?), which prompts some Williams-helmed history of godly alligators (crocodiles?) in Ancient Egypt. Williams is trying out new styles every issue; this time, he seems to be channeling Moebius, with plenty of clean, precise lines, and Tony Avina’s colors lightening accordingly. Primary artist Shawn McManus has brought on an inker, Andrew Pepoy (who shares equal cover billing - nice), and there’s little change in his attractive cartoony stylings. Always a fine-looking book we’ve got.

And it’s not that writers Leah Moore and John Reppion don’t know how to craft some fun dialogue (although there’s considerably less joking around in this issue than average) or render the mythological sidebars interesting. It’s just that the overall feel of the work is one of repetition, of wheel spinning, of gaining little ground. Perhaps next issue, which presumably will have to explain the purpose/intent/methods of the lead villain while providing the big climactic conflict at the same time, shall offer a deviation from the familiar movement of half of this miniseries. Indeed, I expect it will have to, merely to provide a satisfactory conclusion to this spread-out tale.