ADVANCE REVIEW! Bigfoot Boy Volume 1: Into the Woods will go on sale Saturday, September 1, 2012.
Have you ever wanted to see Faith Erin Hicks draw a squirrel swoop around in a forest? Of course you have. And now it's a dream you can finally make into a reality, with the arrival of Bigfoot Boy: Into The Woods, drawn by Hicks and written by J. Torres. An all-ages graphic novel published through Kids Can Press, this 100-page original story sees a young Archie lookalike called Rufus get packed off to the forest to spend a few days with his grandma. Once in the woods, he meets a scrappy femme fatale called Penny and her totally hot sister Aurora. He also finds a mystical totem which gives him magical powers.
More on that in a second! Torres takes a story here which could have felt slight, and instead slowly fills it with charm and whimsy (a word we should all use more often) until it becomes rounded-out and filled with detail. At first the dialogue, which is aimed at children perhaps more than it's aimed at handsome 24-year old British writers, at first feels a little simple, but over the course of the story the style starts to make more and more sense, eventually revealing itself to be a key component in the charm of the narrative. Far from being simple, the dialogue is actually carefully constructed to fit the tone of the story whilst never feeling like too much for somebody to take in at once. For adults, the narrative style has quirk and warmth; for kids, it speaks directly to their level, without ever being patronizing or talking down.
Torres also makes good use of the pages, mixing wordless pages and panels with short, snappy dialogue, which grows in strength as the story does. The concept is introduced simply, without any undue complications, which gives Torres freedom to do whatever he wants with the rules he's created. The use of magic is fun and silly, but it immediately leads into several other surprises which I won't reveal here — all utterly crazy, but delivered with a strange sense of honesty and openness which makes each new surprise feel like a natural piece of the overall story.
Hicks proves to be the perfect choice for a project like this, using each page to control the pace of the story with ruthless efficiency. Her pages are open and wide, with each panel larger than the humans wandering through them, to emphasise the size of the woods themselves. The placing of dialogue and characters means that readers follow through each panel completely before moving across to the next — instead of trying to be overly clever with the placements, the creative team instead allow the story to tell itself. The way Hicks places her panels means readers take their time, and catch the twists as they're meant to happen — all too often in comics your eye tends to catch on the surprise at the bottom of the right hand page before you've finished the left hand page, but Hicks manages to avoid that through steering the reader carefully across the pages. The colouring, understated, allows focus to fall on the characters, who are drawn brighter and sharper than their surroundings.
She's also really good at drawing squirrels. Let's get into this. The book contains more than the usual number of squirrel appearances, and Hicks and Torres completely steal the book in the squirrel-based sections. Again, I'm not revealing anything more about what the squirrel is up to, but Rufus' interactions with it are the highlights of the book. Especially at the end.
Bigfoot Boy is a delightful book. All-Ages in the very best fashion, it's a story to read with your little sister or young cousins, to stop them pulling books out the bookcase at random STOP DOING THAT KIDS. Fun to read, inventive, charming; it actually rewards a second reading, and radiates charm and warmth from every page. And there is a squirrel.
Steve Morris is the head and indeed only writer for Comics Vanguard, the internet's 139th most-favorite comic-book website. You can find him on Twitter at @stevewmorris, which is mostly nonsensical gibberish you may enjoy or despise. His favorite Marvel character is Darkstar, while his favorite DC character is, also, Darkstar. He's on Team X-Men, you guys.