‘Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat’ #1 Review
created by Andrez Bergen
As much as I love The Big Two and the superhero archetype, my heart always belongs to the world of the independent publisher. They were my first love, the publications that excited me the most and formed so much of the person I am today. Of course, that connotation has changed over time, now coming to mean companies like Image and Valiant, but to me, “independent” meant something far different. It meant people creating for creation’s sake, putting their heart and soul into a product even though there was no guarantee of an audience or a profit. They were comics and zines made for those who bothered to find them and had the scent of the amateur all over them, even when the quality was high.
Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat has this feel to it.
Having previously existed as a novel and then a graphic novel, TSMG is now reborn under the publishing umbrella of this very website, operating as Project-Nerd Publishing.
So then, does this review stand as a conflict of interest? Can we give a fair review to one of our own publications? Will they be fishing my lifeless corpse from my nearest estuary in a week’s time if I say anything vaguely negative?
Stay tuned, boys and girls…we’re about to find out.
Set in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic future (is there any other kind?), TSMG follows drunk and washed out detective (is there any other kind?), Floyd Maquina, a man who eats noir for breakfast. We find him at the bottom of a bottle and charged with finding the daughter of a local big wig. From there on in, the story is pure noir/pulp. With breaks into standard prose at times, providing as eclectic and unsettling an atmosphere as the art itself, the story tends to take a backseat to the visuals.
It’s itchy, scratchy art, a type reminiscent of Bill Sienkiewicz (and, strangely reminiscent of the first digitally-created comic, Shatter), using found images and assembled, rather than drawn. Granted, there is an awful lot of creativity in these assemblages, though many will struggle to trace the characters from panel to panel and might struggle to make sense of the world these characters move through. If, like myself, you grew up in the 80’s on small publication zines and indie comics of dubious notoriety, then this visual language will feel incredibly reminiscent. If not, it can be a difficult read and will challenge preconceived notions of sequential art.
What Andrez Bergen—creator, author, artist—has done with this title is neither new nor revolutionary, but he does do a fantastic job with his narrative. Though the images play like a television that’s not quite tuned in properly, his narrative skill manages to keep the reader interested and steers them confidently throughout.
The dialogue is thick and laden with pulp (the literary kind, not the orange), though nowhere near the pastiche of Miller’s, Sin City. This language is more naturalistic, whilst still employing many of the same phrasings and devices.
Being so far removed from the standard comic fare and requiring such commitment from the average reader, I would have to say that the story doesn’t lend itself well to the standard, monthly issue, but will benefit more from the inevitable collected edition when it arrives. This would allow the reader to fully absorb the breadth of the story and the medium with which it has been made.
Perhaps a bigger question, though, is where does Project-Nerd stand in printing such a book? It is an uneasy colleague alongside other publications, such as Barrens and That Bulletproof Kid and leaves one wondering if this benefits the company in showing diversity, or damages the book by confusing readers. Time will tell and it will be interesting to see how upcoming books will bring the dichotomy of titles together.
In the meantime, Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat is a bold book, from a bold, new publisher and will, ultimately, reward those who allow it in.
Please note that Project-Nerd Publishing is a division of Project-Nerd, LLC. All reviews are handled in a professional manner with an honest and unbiased breakdown of the materials.