Big Bastard is still flying a relatively rare flag in Irish comics: a full colour story with an eye towards good presentation and production values. The release dates between each issue are still unsteady (as with much of the market, a lot of printing comes from our pockets) but the quality is hopping from strength to strength.
Big Bastard #3 has stunningly upped the ante in its theme, and the horrible aftermath of an Ireland wrought with magical nasties really turns for the worst in this issue. Holly, Tadgh, Donal, Conn and Cú and the mysterious Big Bastard himself are on the road again, with the more ‘mortal’ members of the group complaining about being exposed to the elements for so long. They’re not keen on sleeping outdoors again, so they attempt to find shelter. (To the exclusion of Holly and the Big Bastard, the former being a ghost and the latter being scary and strange.)
The crew do find a farmhouse, but it is currently guarded by a shellshocked couple who, after the events of issue 1 concerning the purple cloud and demons sprouting everywhere, have taken to arms and will shoot anyone or anything that is a threat. With communication totally breaking down, Big Bastard tries to intervene, but the crew must keep moving on.
They find a second homestead owned by a friendly elderly couple. The old woman at the door greets Tadgh, Donal and Conn, and she and her husband welcome them inside to food and bed. Cú is ordered to sleep in the barn, where Holly and Big Bastard join him. But soon after the men hit the sack, the couple are not what they appear to be, and herald some pretty violent and explicit scenes in the comic thereafter. What comes after the mayhem is a chunky insight into Big Bastard’s past, on account of Holly demanding that he tell everyone what they are really travelling across the country for.
The writing is still solid, with each character getting their moments in the story – even Holly is showing more assertiveness, whereas Donal is revealing a flirtier side but still is the voice of some First World Problems the crew are having. The colour has somewhat improved too – I’m reviewing a PDF print, but there’s a better definition of shadow and highlight than in the previous issue, where there was a strong but sparing use of black for the divide between midtones and shadows. The draftsmanship is still excellent and there’s a bonus piece of art by illustrator Tim Stampton at the end.
The only thing hampering Big Bastard is perhaps the long wait between issues, however this is a frequent problem among Irish comics (like I mentioned, the amount of money put into printing is not always immediately made back – breaks in publication are often money issues within a tiny market as opposed to lack of interest from the creators) and it has not stopped the comic from winning The Arcade’s Best Irish Publication award last year. The comic is on par with professional comics, and it’s one of the rare examples I’ll hold up and ask other creators to aspire to a similar level of work they can be proud of.