Bug!: The Adventures of Forager #1
Written by Lee Allred
Art by Mike Allred and Laura Allred
Lettering by Nate Piekos Published by Young Animal
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
The Allreds and Young Animal deliver a rousingly weird tribute to Jack Kirby in the debut of Bug!: The Adventures of Forager #1, the pop-up imprint’s first miniseries. Picking up directly after his “death” in 1988's Cosmic Odyssey, the Allreds take Forager through a bugnuts long, dark tea time of the soul, teaming him with the Silver Age Sandman against a truly adorable villain in order to save the “dream scape” and keep a miraculous deus ex machina alloy out of the hands of the baddies.
Heavily reminiscent of the cult classic Madman title, Bug! is a frantic dive into the Kirby-verse, led by a gloriously dorky protagonist and sporting some of the Allred’s best work since FF. But while this debut moves at a breakneck pace and its chocked to bursting with classic spinner rack action, its frantic pace sets it apart from the rest of the thematically solid Young Animal offerings; something I am not quite sure is the best thing for the imprint’s first miniseries effort. However, it is still early days for the Forager and his new solo series, and just based on this debut issue, Bug!: The Adventures of Forager still looks to be a damn good time.
It isn’t every day you wake up in a cocoon after having just saved the universe while, erm, kind of dying in the process, but it's a Bug's life, and he's just living in it. Opening with a concise, efficiently blocked recap of sorts of Forager’s origins, early adventures, and eventual death, the Allred's flashbacks are carefully separated by black panels of increasingly panicked pale pink narration lettering by Blambot’s Nate Piekos. The effect initiates the reader quickly, but never allows them to fully gain their footing.
This is both a huge boost and stumbling block for a debut issue. On on the one hand, it is pretty much an accepted truth of the universe that you are going to have fun reading an Allred book, and Bug! is certainly no exception. Lee Allred injects a quirky, yet grounded personality into the Forager for this new debut, making him the same spitfire outcast of the New Gods, but also allowing how his scorned, dingy existence would truly affect a person to shine through his Spider-Man-esque banter.
The plot itself is also a choice bit of Silver Age insanity, which allows Mike and Laura Allred ample opportunity to indulge in their already dynamically vintage style throughout, particularly with a fantastic time-lapse sequence of Bug flipping over General Electric (Google him and thank me later) to retrieve the issue’s MacGuffin. Also standing out is an intricately detailed set piece involving a recreation of Mother Box circuitry using dominoes that leads up to an explosive splash page, portending future events and filled with all sorts of Kirby character cameos and the Allred’s trademark take on the Kirby Krackle.
But while Bug! #1 is an undeniably good time at the comic shop, this debut lacks what makes Young Animal so vital. More or less, every Young Animal books is about something. Shade the Changing Girl is about self-actualization and growing into womanhood. Mother Panic is about dealing with trauma in a visceral way. Doom Patrol is... Doom Patrol. You get the picture. Bug!'s debut plants the seeds for another possible exploration of self on the superheroic level, a la Cave Carson, but the script never fully makes that textual in the story. Part of what makes Young Animal work for me is that human core and I am confident that Bug! #1 can get there in later issues, but I wish it was just more overt with its themes right out of the gate like the other titles in the line. That said, if anyone can make us care about one of Kirby’s oddest creation, it's the Allreds.
Standing as a true family affair, Bug!: The Adventures of Forager #1 is a gleeful simultaneous throwback and modern comic homage to the heyday of Jack Kirby’s comic output bolstered by the indie comic cred of a revered creative team and a white hot imprint for only “the most dangerous humans.” Laura, Mike, and Lee Allred come correct to the New God B-teamer and while the emotional hook associated with the imprint is somewhat lacking here, Bug! #1 is still an experience you would kick yourself for sleeping on.