I came across this book by chance. Pure chance. I was walking to the cash to pay for my weekly loot and caught this out of the corner of my eye. I’d been keeping an eye out for it but I just couldn’t find it anywhere I looked. Then voila, it appeared like the magical creatures within the story. Or it just got reordered and re-shipped to the comic shop. Whatever.
I’m not sure if there is more love I can give to this book than creators Mike Bullock and Jack Lawrence already did. Same with the gagillion blog-mongers and other comic reviewers that have already praised this work – what do I have to offer that’s different.
Well, not a whole heck of a lot other than to remind you few people out there who haven’t read it yet that you should. If you have a kid who is starting to read and is looking for their own comics give them this trade for a birthday or instead of their Archie comics. I would really suggest giving this to anyone whose favourite movie is The Iron Giant. They style is similar and some similar ground is tread here – believing in yourself and your friends alongside the awkwardness of growing from child to adolescent.
There is a great sense of wonder presented here that appeals to both the older reader and the younger reader. I gave it to one of my co-worker’s son who was in the office and he loved it and I’m now looking for another copy for him because I hadn’t read it yet. The colours, the character design and the production values are all remind me of the Iron Giant and childhood imagination. The reds and oranges are somehow redder and more orange than real life while the characters are both unreal yet believable. Scary without being horrendously frightening. These characters can act in a manner that reminds me of what I saw in Eisner’s The Spirit recently. They are dynamic and expressive instead of being in static heroic pose after static heroic pose which stands out to me these days. It’s weird what you get accustomed to when you are reminded that things don’t need to be that way.
The story is a mixture of everything you can remember loving as a kid and some you probably remember as more recent canonical additions to “children’s lit” and entertainment. I felt like this was a glass of wine that I’d never tasted before. I do this all the time, I take a sip and say I don’t like it but by the end of the glass it’s a new favourite. I do that with first issues all the time and I did it here as I started the story. It felt familiar and verging on hackish, then I was engrossed and could only see how new and original this was instead of harking upon how it’s similar to so many other previous works. I mean, really, there’s only so many types of stories out there so everything feels familiar to us these days.
Lions, Tigers and Bears is a heroic epic on par with Beowulf for me. Okay, maybe not in historic importance but it follows all the points that make Beowulf such a powerful and important work. The character learns and grows internally as well as externally. He faces all the dangers surrounding him and grows. It’s not just the adventure and danger that teach Joey but his interaction with his Grandmother and King Bear outside of the adventures that teach Joey about himself. This plugs into the same tales that Tolkein plugged into for his Middle Earth stories. That and a sense of wonder – how can you go wrong?
Lions, Tigers and Bears = Goodness.