The Infidel is a comic by Bosch Fawstin that's been in the works for a number of years. And this week, just as it is to feature on The Daily Show, it's gone live.
I have mocked this comic book a number of times, on Lying In The Gutters at CBR and recently on Bleeding Cool, as some kind of poorly dashed off, one sided polemic, based on a series of cartoons, posters and teasers by Bosch which have been lazy, repetitive, boring and dull. And I thought the comic book would be just the same.
I was wrong.
I mean it is a polemic. It is bigoted. But its not quite the Jack Chick caricature his promotional work have suggested it is. And artistically, in terms of storytelling, it's rather accomplished, certainly to what I was expecting.
It wears its Frank Miller influence on its sleeve, and not just politically, there are moments that remind of Dark Knight, Year One and 300 specifically. And then he goes and puts them on the shelf to hammer it home, along with the work of Alex Toth and Steve Ditko - though there are political influences here as well, and all the Objectivist books you can fit on a bookshelf. But there are all sorts of narrative tricks at play here that can't help but impress. Check the middle panel here.
Exposing character, physicality and direction in a very impressive fashion, and a comic book fashion at that. This is not a movie pitch, this is very much a comic book using, reusing some of its best tricks and inventing ne of its own. Look at this juxtaposition of elements, colour and tone to portray differing points of view.
The book is full of these storytelling choices, including people jumping from the Twin Towers, falling down past the rest of that page, the onlookers. The composition is perfect. But what is the book actually portraying?
There are are two central narratives that the book dives in and out of. The origin of Pigman, a superhero who fights terrorist Muslims in the Middle East wearing the skin of pig, inspired by the events of 9/11, and disgusted by the actions of his brother.
This is paralleled by the actions of his creator, also inspired by the events of 9/11 but fighting his war at home, in the comic shops, on the news networks and on the streets around Ground Zero, and who has a brother involved in terrorist Islamic groups in New York itself, who appear just as caricatured as they do in Pigman.
And yes, even Fox News is seen as as a willing dupe of Islamic fundamentalism, and the actions of the US Government post 9-11 as insufficiently strident. Which, you know, is certainly an... objectivist point to take.
But it's not just this two dimensional. If not actually any greys, there is at least sympathy and empathy for the misguided. And even an understanding of how this world view might come over to anyone, well, vaguely normal. And in this moment, the caricatures fall away and you see what happens when people are friends despite the other having really quite odd opinions. Because that's what people are like. And in this moments, well anything could happen, the solid ground we'd been given to stand sudenly feels shaky. And these are the moments I really wasn't expecting in this book, the author deliberately portraying a character who represents his point of view as being needlessly provocative and didactic towards his friends.
And that's why this book isn't quite as easy to dismiss as, well, I've been dismissing it. There's always the arguments about how the views of the creator affect your enjoyment of work, and how much you can enjoy a piece of entertainment that takes an opposite viewpoint. And this so takes an opposite viewpoint. But it's an enjoyable book despite that. Maybe even because of it. Put it this way, if you enjoyed the likes of 300, Cerebus, Mr A and the work of Ted Rall, this should not trouble you overtly. You may even enjoy it. It's just possible...
The book is available for download here at $2.50.