Bug! The Adventures of Forager opened last month with a very strong first issue written by Lee and Michael Allred with art by Michael and Laura Allred, with letters by Nate Piekos of Blambot, and variant cover by Doc Shaner. It introduced us to a very trippy world where Bug was trapped in an old house where he shifted between dreaming and waking, and in his strange dreams seemed to see shades of things to come, including odd messages from a little girl and her talking teddy bear.
Now, in last week’s second issue, we follow Bug through a dimensional jump, where he finds himself in the Himalayas during World War II in another version of reality where the same foe who he faced at the end of the first issue, General Electric, is seeking a mystical metal by oppressing a magical hidden city in those mountains. And there are androids. And don’t forget Sandman, Blue Beatle, The Losers, and Sandy the Golden Boy. These are classic characters coming in as a team and seeing Bug as pretty much in their tradition. He fits in more easily than anyone in the party might have at first assumed.
In a pulpy showdown, we also meet abominable snowmen, watch confrontations in underground mines, and get the gist of a timeloop with self-fulfilling elements that even Bug finds amusing. This issue, like the last, is gorgeously illustrated, full of quips, and very fast-paced. The tone of Bugness is becoming clearly established–a Bug on the run, with mysteries unfolding around him, and the sense that he’s pursuing his own journey through the entertainingly absurd situations he finds himself in.
For the first time, while reading this issue of Bug, it occurred to me that the Young Animal imprint at DC Comics, of which Bug is a part, might be a kind of inheritor of the ambitions and even the achievements of the ABC line of comics that were originally published by Wildstorm and later by DC. The comparison arose, I think, from the tone of this issue of Bug and the ways in which it had the same zany action and confidence as one of my favorite comics, Tom Strong.
Tom Strong was a comic that loved an android or two, especially went in for mining expeditions, and did its best to draw in classic characters wherever possible. While the ABC universe, which included the groundbreaking comic Promethea, had its share of mystical elements, the Young Animal line is so much more psychedelic in tone that this significant difference may have prevented me from seeing a connection before.
America’s Best Comics (ABC) were driven by the vision of the great Alan Moore, working with a number of very talented artists including JH Williams III, and Chris Sprouse, and over time co-writers were brought in like Peter Hogan on Tom Strong. Though Moore’s presence was very specific on each comic, there are comparisons to be made between the ways in which Moore operated and the ways in which Gerard Way is currently operating as curator of the Young Animal line. The main difference is that Way is working more fully with established properties and bringing them back to life rather than creating a new raft of characters.
The concept of creating a kind of pocket universe with permeable borders within the larger DC Universe is at work here in Young Animal, though, as it was for ABC, and the potential for crossovers among the titles, and with other DC properties, is an attractive one. Allowing a unique creative vision in both cases to set the tone for the line also seems like a worthy experiment, while allowing other writers and artists to work within a burgeoning comic world.
And lastly, there’s very much the sense at Young Animal, as there was with ABC, that if you like one title in the line you are likely to enjoy the other titles too, building an established and clear fan base around the line. With Young Animal, we have Doom Patrol, Shade The Changing Girl, Mother Panic, and now Bug! The Adventures of Forager to lay that groundwork.
Realizing that Young Animal has precedent, with ABC and no doubt with other models of shared universe titles in comics history, is exciting because it gives comics a chance to build on what tradition has gotten right in the past–reaching out to fans to create what most appeals to them in a way they can locate in shops and easily keep up with to explore their own interests. It’s noteworthy that both lines display a love of comics history, too, bringing the most lively and appealing qualities from the past to new readers, thereby celebrating the medium.
Bug! The Adventures of Forager #2 is currently in shops as of Wednesday, June 14th. Issue #3 arrives July 5th.
This review was written by Hannah Means-Shannon.