Monday, January 16, 2012

Trade Waiting – Footprints

Footprints is a book you may have heard of, or maybe not. It’s one of those underground sensations that gets buzz, but mostly in the underground. For those unacquainted, prepare to meet a comic you will dangerously fall in love with. Footprints brings us Bigfoot as a gumshoe investigating a case of old friends dying, old enemies hatching big plans, and old vengeance coming home to roost. The art is sketchy and fun and if you’re in the market for new ideas and something different from the pabulum then hit the jump to see why you are preordering this trade for its Feb 29 release.


Written by Joey Esposito
Art by Jonathon Moore

We might as well address the elephant in the room – though perhaps calling it a chupacabra would be more genre appropriate. Yes, this is a book about cryptids, and yes, Bigfoot is the lead. It’s about investigating and other creatures and plots larger than at first thought. However, this is nothing like Proof – the book from Image by Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo about Bigfoot as a CIA agent. Proof was more about cryptid espionage and this is cryptid pulp. Grecian wrote like his Bigfoot was starring in a bizarre Archer/Clancy novel whereas Esposito posits this Bigfoot as the lead in a warped Chandler/MacLean novel.

With that out of the way, let’s look at Footprints on its own two feet and see how it fares.

The first thing to grab you when you open Footprints is the stark black and white art. It’s scratchy, it’s bleak, it’s almost downtrodden – and I mean all those in a good way. The art matches the tone of the piece, especially in the first part of the story. It feels like you are watching an old movie classic on a noon time repeat. This tale isn’t from now, it’s from then. That’s pretty cool and to set this stage without the first words, and only the hint of our lead’s trenchcoated back, is a great start to the proceedings.

Bigfoot enters his office, lights up a cigarette, opens a letter from an old friend, and the game is afoot. That’s two pages and it’s very terse yet narratively light. There’s still plenty to discover but by this stage you’ve already decided you want to be along for the ride. That’s how you kickstart a story.

From here we meet the supporting cast. Esposito’s decision to make the Jersey Devil sound like an authentic Jersey resident is either genius or terrible. Either way, it’ll make you laugh whether you want it to or not. The emotional journey isn’t his so it doesn’t matter if he’s an idiot or not. Maybe he’s the strange Yoda of the tale, though some may see him as the Jar Jar Binks. You have been fairly warned – and I should state I found him more of a warped C-3PO than anything else, ha.

The chupacabra, in actual cryptozoological mythology, is one hell of a scary creature. The ferocity and uncertainty is retained on the page here. You do not know what you are going to get with this character and his placement as an attack dog for the group is a great turn. Then we get Nessy, from the Loch, and this femme agent is something you have to see to believe. If you don’t understand the wholistic tone of the book after seeing her work her magic then you really need to sit and think for a moment. Opposite her is the Megalodon, a gigantic shark, and his inclusion feels like it could, pardon the pun, make the book jump the shark. Then Esposito makes Don’s arc surprisingly tragic which helps with the acceptance of such a behemoth in this affair – and there is also one moment of Don’s that was one of my favourite for the whole title [HAVE AT THEE!].

With the team assembled amidst their internal problems and issues, we then get the complication of the case. It starts with a man losing his head, in the worst possible way, and only escalates from there. There is a large problem at the heart of this case and it is both global in effect and personal in heart. Of course, it relates to the history of our cryptid team, and their lost members, and of course it involves secret bases and mothmen soldiers and sacrifice and love lost.

For every mammoth idea Esposito comes up with, and Moore translates onto the page with grace and ease, there are also moments of true character work. The cryptids weren’t always in the public eye but when they did finally come out they thought everything could be better for them. Bigfoot thinks about the fact they are still monsters, and yet the humans helped them adjust to their new world because the truth of the matter is there wasn’t much difference. It’s a crushing indictment of mankind with it’s prevalence for booze and war and all the ways to make the world a terrible place. To having writing like this inserted alongside a poker game between the Jersey Devil, a chupacabra, and Nessy is the perfect way to express exactly what this book is, why it succeeds, and why you are going to enjoy it after you buy it.

Genre crossing, and breaking, books can be a tough sell. If one of those genres doesn’t appeal to you then you might pass. If the genres don’t mesh well, then you might pass. Footprints boldly stands up as its own book – there are cryptids as both whole flesh characters and comedic relief, as well as nasty pieces of business; there is pulp crime serious in intent and execution; the book is funny at times, ludicrous in others, and overall weaving together the sort of tale you cannot get anywhere else. This is an individual tale no one else could have brought before you. Footprints is a book that will make you think but won't stop you having a whole mess of fun while you do it.

Moore’s art is damn moody. That’s the main aspect to strike. He delivers the big ideas well, and his expressions and acting are well moderated, but the soaked through mood in each scene is what makes this book pop. It’s exciting as well as heartfelt. The major action set pieces are the weak point at times, with muddled backgrounds and cluttered panels requiring more of your time, but the big moments and the emotional resolutions are great.

It should also be noted that Adam O. Pruett does a great job with the lettering. His sound effects are fun in an almost TV show Batman style but without ever interfering with your experience.

Verdict – Buy It. I hear a lot of talk about people wanting new comics that are good, and wanting to support these books with their money, and here is the perfect opportunity. Footprints is like nothing else and yet still the quality is fantastic. You’ll be won over with the words, you’ll be smiling along with the art, and you’ll count the sad tale of Bigfoot and the case of the venomous moth woman as one to remember and tell your friends about. This is a strange pulp yarn – as most of the good ones are – and well worth your time and money. Footprints will suck you in with the big ideas but it will floor you with the heart on show. This is the sort of Bigfoot of which we definitely need more.

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