Friday, August 27, 2010

Trade Waiting – Proof: Julia Vol 4

I'm a big fan of Proof, the tale of bigfoot working for an undercover governmental cryptid tracking agency. It’s very smart and often times pretty funny too. It’s written by Alexander Grecian and drawn by Riley Rossmo and this volume looks at Proof’s past, and also ties in Springheel Jack. We've previously looked at the first trade and the second one as well, so hit those reviews to get an image of what the series is like up to here. Hit the jump to check my thoughts on this latest volume.

Written by Alexander Grecian
Art by Riley Rossmo
Colours by Dave Casey

Proof is a strange comic because it’s about monsters and Bigfoot working for a shadow government agency and yet it is so completely smart. The premise sounds almost goofy but the delivery is astonishing at time. I don’t think Julia is the best trade of the bunch, but it’s certainly not a bad thing to have on the shelves. We get a previous case from Proof’s life as he recounts the tale of what might be his first love and we also get the case that ran concurrently to that time, the terrible murders of Springheel Jack.

We open on Proof back in the day when he lived life as a traveling carnival man of extreme hair and still erudite tastes. And he also went by the name Gulliver. He’s in love with the bearded lady, Julia, but she sees herself as still human and Gulliver as the animal. She even has a normal husband, who’s really quite the bastard but she puts up with it, as can happen in any relationship really. It’s an interesting dynamic that such a hideous creature, by our standards, can scoff at the unrequited love of another who is in her position. It doesn’t make sense, except for the fact that Grecian ably shows it how it makes sense to those involved.

This subplot works well through the trade as we see Gulliver doing his best to keep Julia safe but never being able to save her from her own convictions or mistakes. It’s a slow burn of a ‘love tale’ and it’s certainly poignant. In the end, Julia falls pregnant and Gulliver wants to step up for her but she won’t let it happen. She eventually leaves with her husband and has the baby overseas. It’s a horrible ordeal and she never gets to see the baby and no one will tell her if the baby is like her or not. Gulliver tracks her down and lies to her about it to make her feel better.

The saddest aspect of this storyline is that the person, Julia Pastrana, was real. She existed and most of this happened to her. Obviously she never met Proof (he’s fictional, kids) and certain story elements have been tweaked, but otherwise she was the Victorian Ape Woman and life certainly was tough for her. And her husband was a right nutbag. It’s a terrible tale that is recounted for us in an article in the back of the trade and it makes you realise that some of these weird and crummy things can happen in our world, off the page, as well.

Running alongside all of this is the Springheel Jack storyline. Riley Rossmo does such a fantastic job of making Jack look even creepier than you could, would, or should, imagine. The mask really lunges out of the page at you and the running and leaping style shown, on those creepy springheeled legs, is extremely effective. This is possibly my favorite cryptid creation in this comic so far because of the menace and glee he puts into the mask and the actions. Jack goes around murdering woman and leaping away off into the night. There appears to be no motive and absolutely no heart.

Gulliver, and his brother Gilgamesh, are drawn into the case when Jack turns up at the circus and attacks Julia. They are able to track down the culprit and it’s really not what you’d think. There are actually two explanations for this cryptid and each is just as crazy as the other. I won’t spoil them here but I think Grecian did a good job presenting his theories on these things and making them work for the narrative. Visually, Jack is simply amazing and he makes for a very intriguing case as well.

In the end we see how all of this causes Gulliver to take to the woods and renounce being human for a very long time. He would only come back as the Proof we know now after a long time of isolation and contemplation. Clearly the events of Julia affected him greatly and he saw that man was just another creature too. The whole world was one big zoo. As he tells this tale to his newest human partner, Ginger, as the framing device, we see that he is truly accepting her into her inner circle. He’s opened up completely for her to see now.

Grecian does a top job of packing emotion into his pages and he limits the cool cryptoids and witty asides as this story is played for keeps. He does a great job of setting it all up but then revels in all of the reveals at the end and the impacts they have on his characters. Rossmo’s art is also perfectly fitting of this title so it will be a shame when he leaves, which I assume is happening with the season ending on this title and Rossmo already working on Cowboy Ninja Viking.

Verdict – Buy It. Proof is a very well structured and plotted comic. Grecian manages to reimagine cryptids in various forms and draw the reader into the case. He’s also writing the best bigfoot in comics right now. The art is very pretty but overall it’s just good comics and more should be appreciating it. And then dreaming of Springheel Jack and all his creepiness.

Like this review? Interested in Proof Vol 4: Julia? Buy it on and help support the Weekly Crisis!

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