Writer / Artist: Matt Ryan
Graphic Design / Letters: Steve Kuster
Publisher: Free Lunch Comics
Woah, this was certainly a change of pace. I am quite un-ashamedly a superhero comic book guy by nature, although there are some really excellent works outside of this genre such as Cerebus and Bone over the years. But this is seems something quite different.
Bigger, by independent publisher Free Lunch Comics, involves super powers of sorts, although not the kind that is likely to provide much use in a scrap, and such motives couldn’t be farther from our protagonist’s thinking: Willie Rison is a senior at Mountain High School and close to graduation, enjoying the simple pleasures of youth… until he loses his virginity to his best friend Weez on Prom Night. While Willie went home feeling 10 feet tall and with everything in life falling in to place, he woke up with a rather unusual (and now recurring) problem – whenever he becomes aroused, his entire body doubles in size. Obviously, for a boy of this age yearning to lead a normal and ‘productive’ life, that is going to present a fair share of complications!
Yes, ok, this is pretty ridiculous, but then generally most is in the world of comics when you think about it. However, although the development of this ability drives the plot, it is really peripheral to elements such as tone and character which really provide this book with its strongest moments.
#9 marks the start of a new chapter in Willie’s life (as well as a new story arc), as he tries to find the right moment and method for explaining his new situation to Weez, while at the same time avoiding the pressures and stresses of high school life, which have taken on a whole new dimension.
The central theme for Bigger is the exploration of teenage relationships, between friends, parents, and the opposite sex. At times it gets very silly and there are a few rather exaggerated stereotypes on show, but this is the style of the book and on many levels the interplay of these relationships work extremely well.
The black-and-white artwork is fairly simplistic on one level, although the storytelling is perfectly clear, but Ryan manages to mirror the vitality and craziness of the storyline with animated expressions and some rather more interpretative cartoon-style illustrations to reflect the volatile emotional state of this group of teenagers. The visuals are a perfect match for the script and tone in a way probably only achievable by a writer-artist creator.
There is a real inherent charm to this book: despite the fantastic, over-the-top elements that drive this story in both words and pictures (and the rather adult tone), it is thoroughly engaging and hits just the right notes to resonate with many of us that can no doubt equate this situation (hopefully not literally!) to their own coming-of-age experiences. Sensibly, it doesn’t pretend to be wonderfully deep, but it is full of fun and most importantly the various relationships throughout the book and the depiction of life at this difficult age ring true.
This issue obviously has some strong elements to it, but it is actually a rather difficult book to review and certainly to rate; despite the excellent and thorough recap pages and start of a new arc, it takes some time to settle into the ‘groove’ of the book, and by the time I reached the last page I was just about getting there. This issue is constantly teetering on the precipice between the sublime and the ridiculous, just staying on the right side but liable to fall at any time. There is also a potential question mark over the longevity – are there many more stories to tell with these characters that can carry this particular premise? It will be interesting to see where Ryan takes this in the long term.
Putting those concerns to one side, however, this book certainly raised a few knowing smiles if not outright laughs, and quite simply this is just a pleasure to read; Bigger is vibrant, quirky, and about as honest a story you can get from a giant hormonal high-school teenager!