This is an overdue one: when I was faffing about at D.I.C.E. last month, I came across Big Bastard at one of the indie tables at the side entrance to the convention. I’d heard the name being sparingly mentioned on the regular comic vines until its debut that very weekend – and instantly impressed by the presentation and the artwork, I picked up a copy.
Big Bastard #1 merely introduces the cast – a ‘gathering the team’ sequence where the main players’ names, roles and powers are revealed – but does so in a rather gripping way. The story is set in Ireland in 1899, and begins with a young boy (presently nameless) who plays in the woods, until he trips over the handle of a stone club protruding from the ground. Curious, the boy tugs the club free from the ground, and on touching it again, his soul leaves his body. A strange hooded figure urges the boy to wield the club, and on picking it up, all hell breaks loose across the four corners of Ireland. Literally.
In Howth, a young scientist named Donal Harkin is one of the first to witness the stormy purple shockwave smother the east coast, damaging his current experiment. Tadgh de Brun, a writer in Cork, has his house destroyed in the wave but survives the blast. Con Ui Neill and his dog Cú are viciously attacked by spirits in their home in Galway, but they keep fighting on to see the gruesome results of this curse. And in Belfast, Holly Doherty is also witness to the shockwave, but doesn’t live to see any more of it – physically. She is distressed as she’s now a spirit, but discovers she can inhabit other bodies for a short time. The one thing in common with the cast members is their ownership of a special weapon and ability, and the ending of issue 1 hints at their teaming up to fight the monsters that have emerged during the disaster.
Hands down Big Bastard has easily some of the most appealing art in Irish comics right now: the character designs are tightly rendered with care and skill, which is a quality a great draughtsperson needs. And as one of the few Irish comics that feature digital colour, Big Bastard is a prime example of getting it right and to match the overall tone of the story. The dialogue is chirpy in what is essentially a darkly humorous story, and the story looks to be particularly worth following, on the basis of the main characters alone. Pick it up.