When it comes to revenge tales there usually needs to be a very very good reason for modern day audiences to root for the good guy; look what it took for Quentin Tarentino to make it okay for his protagonist to kill all those people in Kill Bill. They had to put her into a coma and kill everyone at her wedding. If you thought that was bad wait until you see why the dwarf in this series had to endure to get his rage up.
Is it good?
Big Man Plans #4 (Image Comics)
If you’re just joining the Big Man Plans wagon, let me preface this review by saying you probably should go back and read the other issues. That being said, I’ll do my best to catch you up: our protagonist is an ex-Vietnam vet weathered in the field from combat. When he was young he had a crush on a girl who ended up marrying one of the other boys who ended up becoming sheriff of some no name town in Tennessee. Alone and upset our protagonist becomes even more hardened after years of being tormented for his height only to find out his crush died. She left him a letter though and the horrors within are revealed in this very issue. The same horrors that have driven our protagonist to burn, torture and brutalize the men who did the wrongs she outlined in his letter.
I have to hand it to Eric Powell and Tim Wiesch (the men who came up with this little yarn) — they sure know how to come up with a gut turning story. The must disturbing part of it all is the story doesn’t need to visually disgust us because the acts of the bad guys are so vile it’s disgusting just to think about. And then they go and show us in rather vivid detail those acts anyways. As if showing it all wasn’t enough this issue is laid out over 10 double pages which carry over one another to really get at the reader and to remind us everything in this issue is not alright. And yet all that said I enjoyed this comic and know even though it’s too disturbing for most it’s a valid story to tell.
It’s hard not to discuss what happens in this issue without revealing too much, but let’s just say much of the issue takes place in flashbacks. The comic cuts between flashbacks and current events where our protagonist has the leader of the bad guys tied down and ready for torture. And torture he does as we slowly learn not only why killing the protagonist’s love was awful, but why they deserve every ounce of pain he gets. The flashbacks are used beautifully to slowly make us understand why the protagonist is the hero of this tale. Frankly the amount of torture he enacts requires a doozy of a story and it delivers. Let’s just say cruelty, homophobia, rape and inhuman behavior are all touched on in this story.
All is good in the hood…until it’s not.
As I was reading this and the previous issues I wondered why anyone would want to tell this story. It’s filled with graphic violence, incredibly pain and anguish and ultimately, revealed in this issue, a very disturbing act perpetrated on innocent people. But then that’s why it needed to be told, because these sort of acts, the ones we don’t even want to think about, do happen in real life. The kind of evil and lack of empathy required is so great one wonders if some people truly are evil and inhuman. These are some of the ideas you’ll think about while reading this and, if you’re stomach is strong enough for it, you’ll be stronger for it too.
The art by Eric Powell continues to be excellent and the way he’s laid out the story here is beautiful even amongst all the gross images. There is quite a collection of panels here; from a scalping, to a castration to a mouth nailed open, it’s all very torture porn in its look. The fact that it is balanced so well with the innocence and travesty makes the images almost enjoyable to take in. It’s an odd statement, but the fact is it’s very gross, but well earned.
Powell continues to use some epic splashes of color to make the violence pop, while using a vomit inducing green hue on the close ups of the violence’s aftermath to make you extra queasy. The flashbacks look incredibly idyllic and balance the harshness of the present torture too. When we get to the awful injustice scenes they too are cast in the idyllic flashback style which increases their disturbing nature. We’ve seen so many panels of our protagonist young and in love in this issue that when we see the same brown color and sketchy look it’s even more upsetting.
The final panels are without a doubt some of the greatest Powell has ever put to paper. They say so much and (without giving it away) tell us what will happen as we close the comic book too. I can’t imagine how hard it was to come up with an ending for a book where the “hero” commits so much bloody violence, but this somehow is perfect. He may not be wracked with guilt, but the final look Powell gives our protagonist is heartbreaking. You feel sorry for him and yet he’s also a monster. A modern day Frankenstein.
I mean…he has a point…until you find out what HE did.
Is It Good?
Heartbreaking, upsetting and disturbing are just a few of the words that describe this experience. It’s not just a comic, it’s an experience, and by issue’s end you’ll be stronger for it.