In the past Bigby Bear hasn’t strayed too far from the forest. Bigby Bear: The Explorer changes that in a big way. The third book of Bigby Bear to be released by Humanoid’s imprint, BiG, it’s not every bear that can claim they were the first bear on the moon and the first bear to land on Mars. He probably doesn’t have much competition for first bear to walk on the ocean floor, either. It’s a lot of travel, but it’s exactly the kind of shake-up this series needed after two volumes spent above water on solid ground.
Written and illustrated by Philippe Coudray, new locations mean new situations for Bigby to react to, and you can’t get much more different than outer space. A forest is a natural habitat for a bear but Coudray use this volume to take Bigby out of his comfort zone and to see how he fares in environments where bears aren’t usually found or expected.
From faulty rocket ships to evolution, like previous volumes, The Explorer consists of one-page comics centered around the theme of exploration. Coudray still shows a preference for standalone stories to serial ones, which is how Bigby is able to get from the moon to the ocean in the span of a page. There are also a lot of museum visits this time around. This isn’t the first time Coudray has used Bigby to question the morality of zoos and the contrast between Bigby visiting a place where all of the other animals are caged is felt.
One of the most interesting comics to touch on this subject appears early on in the volume and then only as subtext. A caged bird and a fish in a fishbowl ask Bigby to take them to the ocean. Since they’re going underwater, Bigby ends up swapping them out so the bird is in the fishbowl and the fish is in the cage, where he can breathe. It’s a really comical sight and one you can enjoy at that surface level, but it’s the swap of the bowl and the cage that makes it funny. If the bird wasn’t there and it was just a fish in a cage it suddenly becomes a lot sadder.
Coudray doesn’t make it so you have to read his comics this way or always find a dour message behind them. That couldn’t be farther from what Bigby represents. Bigby is about seeing the world in a new light. It’s about thinking outside the box and coming at problems in new ways. It’s about remembering that life can be stranger than fiction and that yetis might exist, and that’s ok if they do. Standing by “it’s impossible” only works until you find out otherwise.
If all of this seems a lot to get from a talking bear, then you haven’t met many talking bears before. Bigby Bear: The Explorer goes on sale March 25th from Humanoids and is a wonderful addition to the pantheon of talking bears that includes Paddington and Yogi Bear.