Publisher: Image Comics
Writer(s): Eric Powell & Tim Wiesch
Artist: Eric Powell
Release Date: 4th March 2015
Holy. Shit. I really don’t think there are any other words that could adequately encapsulate my feelings after reading through this opening issue. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Eric Powell’s work, and this collaboration with Tim Wiesch has been keenly anticipated for a number of months now. They promised something sick, twisted, and uncompromising, but I never expected it to be this messed up!
The nameless ‘Big Man’ of the title is a person with dwarfism, a man routinely ridiculed in all quarters by adults and children alike, and the butt of a seemingly endless stream of jokes in reference to his stature. At first it appears the incessant jibes, although hurtful, are something he simply and very bravely accepts. But the contents of a letter lead to a break in his psyche, a moment where his “number of fucks to give reached zero”, and our hero is set on his journey. The opening sequence culminates in a double whammy of unnerving, and in one case, ingeniously creative violence, and gives us an insight into how a lifetime of torment has taken its toll.
His past is introduced to us via an ingenious little transition, wherein colour tone and inking style are subtly transformed across the gutters between panels to neatly segue us into emotionally charged memories. We are shown a childhood where very few people showed him any compassion; only his father, sister, and an unnamed mourner are seen to do so. After his mother leaves home in embarrassment, his father turns to drink; a decision which costs him his life in an accidental fire. His misery continues into adulthood, and after a failed attempt to enlist in the army he is accepted into a black ops team, and dispatched to clear out foxholes in Vietnam. It’s here he finds his true calling, depicted as a twisted hybrid of Colonel Kurtz and Sergeant Andrew Scott (of Universal Soldier fame) in miniature, one of the many stunning character designs on show.
Eric Powell is truly at the top of his game here, and the artwork is exceptional, perhaps eclipsing his latest work on The Goon. We are left in doubt as to the importance of this character; his Charles Manson-esque image regularly breaking panel barriers in spite of his size. The issue features a few trademark splashes (that last page!), but there is a half-page in particular where our hero stands over a fallen victim about to lay a beating on him, with his ‘family jewels’ on full display. It’s as comical as it is terrifying, and perfectly captures the black humor that Powell is so renowned for.
Overall, the issue feels very much like a typical Powell tale, but there is an added layer of depravity, and perhaps this is where Wiesch comes into play. There’s no doubt, Powell and Wiesch are a pair of sick puppies, and I for one am glad they’ve been allowed off the leash.