You know that old proverb about a group of blind people touching different parts of an elephant and coming up with different ideas as to what it is? One touches the trunk and thinks it’s like a snake and another touches its leg and thinks it’s like a tree. Bear, an original graphic novel from writer Ben Queen and artist Joe Todd-Stanton puts that through a new lens in a rather intriguing way. The comic centers on the title character, a fiercely loyal guide dog who panics when he starts to lose his own sight. How can he help his person if he can’t see himself?
Bear plays with the idea of sight in new and interesting ways. For example, the dog is very good with places he’s been, but when he ventures off that path, it’s like he’s in a new world. When this happens after he loses his sight, Todd-Stanton shows this like the poor dog is stepping off a cliff. To him, there’s nothing there. He has no knowledge of it and it’s a completely empty space. It’s fascinating and it’s only the beginning.
We flash between what Bear is seeing and what is actually happening. This is part of what makes Bear such a great read as you start to piece these aspects together to understand what is going on. Another great example is when the dog meets his namesake in the woods. To him, it’s like a really big dog since he’s never met an actual bear before.
Todd-Stanton’s color work is top notch. You’d think if you’re depicting a blind character that everything would be dark, but that is the farthest thing from the truth. Bear is a burst of color on every page. Even the darker scenes have a vibrant quality to them. This makes a lot of sense. Think about what happens when you close your eyes. It’s not pure darkness. It’s a swirl of colors that changes with the light.
Queen reveals a bit of this in his afterword, outlining how he approached the title. You can see that on the page too. It’ a story with a message, while stopping short of being “a very special comic about blindness.” Instead, you understand that just because someone loses their sight, that doesn’t mean that they’re suddenly useless. They’re certainly presented with new challenges, but those can be overcome.
Bear goes on an absolutely amazing adventure. There’s action, excitement, scares, humor, and a whole lot of heart. Letterer AndWorld Design uses a somewhat quirky font for Bear that is a perfect fit for the story. It blends all of those emotions to bring out the best in each scene.
Bear is a fantastic graphic novel. It’s more than just a fun story about a lovable dog. That might get you through the door, but you’ll stay for the incredible visuals and unbelievable journey. It’s also downright fun, suitable for all ages. I enjoyed this just as much as my kids undoubtedly will. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up fast.