REVIEW: American Bison – Short Stories #1

It’s been said by many that imitation is the finest of all compliments. Let’s bear that axiom in mind when as we move forward into a collection of short stories featuring American Bison from Insane Comics.

This anthology allows some of the characteristics of the titular character to show, whilst also laying the ground work for later adventures.  The feel of an anthology book is somewhat enforced with the different creators that have worked on this book.  SO credit where credit is due, lets talk each part separately:

Buffalo Wings – (W) Lou Frontier,  (A) A Shay Hahn, (C) Steve Benton

In this, the first story of the book, tenacity is the name of the game as a heavily wounded American Bison (AB) comes afoul of a giant vulture.  Unfortunately for the vulture, AB is in no mood to play games, being how he is wearing a quartet of arrows and is loosing blood.  The story by the aptly named Lou Frontier is as simple as it gets.  Man (or in this case man-beast) in a battle against nature.  Elements of the script are meant to be funny, which may appeal to newer readers, for me however AB, at least in this episode, comes across like any number of wise-cracking anthropomorphic characters.  The art by A Shay Hahn is workman like, with a style that may remind you of (at least in the UK) a “Boys Own Adventure” strip.  Colors by Steve Benton give the story an overall newsprint quality which I have to say I don’t mind.

Travellers Inn – (W) Ken Lamug, (A) Ken Lamug (C) Steven Benton

Style and substance chancgs a little in the second tale.  Written again by Frontier, this time we see a weary AB stumble across a possible resting place.  This however turns out to be a rest place for weary souls not weary bones.  At this point, influences of other books become apparent.  It’s not enough that the main character is a half man half beast; the art by Ken Lamug also starts to reflect a certain Mingola-esque style, albeit a less refined version.  Steven Benton, again on colors, adds to the overall effect with a color scheme that screams Hellboy.

Witika – (W) Lou Frontier, (A) Steve Benton

The next story deals with possessions, not the kind you own, the demonic kind.  Again, the script is consistent with its approach to humour thanks, once more,to Frontier.  This time however Benton is promoted to full art duties.  Benton’s work is a little simplistic at times; panels that should feel pacy instead have a flat feel to them.  It may be that Benson is better suited to colors and there is no real shame in that at all.  The story has it’s moments and to be far, I probably enjoyed the dialogue in this part the most.

Wicker – (W) Lou Frontier, (A) Ken Lamug, (C) Steve Benton

For the final story, we are back in Mignola territory, this time with a little more cartoony elements.  If this is an example of Lamug braking away from his influences, I would say keep going.  However, I can see the problem that would create; when you have a character and a style that’s so modelled on Hellboy, the fans that you are trying to attract will no doubt have their expectations.  To be successful, Lamug may have felt it easier to give them what they wanted. It could be that colorist Steve Benton’s color scheme is the major influence in play. Either way, by the end of the book I was finding the influences on show to be a more than a little distracting.

American Bison is an odd book in that it clearly wears its heart on its sleeve.  There is no doubting the crowd that Insane Comcis are looking to attract.  I would have liked to see more diverse storytelling with different styles of art in play throughout, showing how AB can offer different things in each different interpretation.  The down side of appealing to just one set of fans (Mignola-verse in this instance), is that you run the risk of those coveted readers seeing the influence and wondering “why am I buying this when (insert Mignola-verse book here) is over there on the rack.  Is the comic book world big enough for two monster/beast/man crossbreeds?  I would like to thing so, but its important that each have their own voice and style.

Overall Writing – 3 Stars
Art – 2.5 Stars
Color – 3 Stars

Publisher: Insane Comics

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