Friday, June 22, 2012

El Bigote: A Tequila-Drenched Reckoning

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of El Bigote: A Tequila-Drenched Reckoning (Tekilla Comix, 2012).

There's always a half-second pause of trepidation when an online acquaintance offers to let me read his comics. Sure, I do reviews, and I'm happy to provide a little publicity, whether I actually like something or not, but... what if it's awful?! What if I don't like it at all...?

Happily, my phobia has never been less founded than when I got to page four of the over-the-top and wonderful El Bigote, written by Matthew McLaughlin and drawn by the mysterious "El Chivo." I should have known better; anybody whom I know via the 2000 AD message boards is certain to share my appreciation for high-concept, wild stories that mix goofy melodrama with comic violence. Anybody possessing the talent and the drive to actually create their own might have a pretty good chance at infusing their work with the crackling energy - oh, let's just call it thrillpower - that inspires us.

El Bigote isn't a comic for people who enjoy lots of patient and slow-burning world-building and explanation; it throws readers in and expects them to hang on for dear life as events start weird and get weirder. It's set in a strange border town - border as in the border between life and the afterlife - which looks a lot like an Old West ghost town, populated by goblins and ghouls and zombies. It's always el dia de los muertos in Undead Mexico, and lots of mean hombres have ugly scores to settle.

The introductory story for El Bigote - a second adventure, dealing with "muertoads," is promised - is a fast-paced and very amusing fight scene, setting up the rules of this oddball world through dialogue within the skirmish and throwing curve balls, sight gags, and occasional puns on almost every page. McLaughlin and Chivo have a plan to keep things moving, frantic and engaging, while hoping that the experience does not has to pause for readers to figure out what's happening.

Having said that, a slower start could have worked to the story's advantage. There was one stumble where I missed that one of the villains is a fellow with his brain soaking in a tank of tequila, and the setup of an important gag was lost upon me while I was absorbing so many other visual facts at once. Chivo, tasked with visually introducing us to this world, opts to attempt to draw everything immediately, rather than pace and slowly build the clues needed. His inking is in a style a little too heavy for my liking, but I'm impressed by just how much he's inking; most of his peers in the small-press field would happily shortcut somehow to get out of having to draw as much detail and background as he does.

While it is, therefore, rough around the edges, it is still a very entertaining start. It stars a great and silly lead character whose appearance is quite unlike anybody else in the medium. This is certainly recommended over my quibbles, and I look forward to going south of the border again for more paranormal gunslinging adventures with El Bigote soon.

A PDF of this comic was provided for the purpose of review. If you'd like to see your comics or detective fiction featured here, send me an email.

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