Daily Archives: June 13, 2014

The Beast Within

Chicacabra original graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Letters/Cover artist: Tom Beland
Editor: Chris Ryall
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Price: $17.99 US

It’s no secret that I’m a major fan of Tom Beland’s storytelling. His autobiographical series True Story Swear to God is one of my all-time favorite comics and always will be. That I would delve into this first fictional creator-owned work was a given, but in advance of its release, I wondered if it would grab me as much as True Story did. The work for which Beland is best known is an incredibly personal one, about him, his wife, his family. He shared his greatest joys and fears in True Story, but Chicacabra isn’t about him. Beland has written fantastic fiction in the medium before, specifically for Marvel Comics. Those were thoroughly entertaining and fun comics as well, but they weren’t as personal, as revealing. But really, one wouldn’t expect any wholly resonant characterization from one-shots featuring long-standing super-hero icons that are designed to be static. So the question remained — would Chicacabra, which lingers on the edge of the super-hero genre, lack the same touching humanity?

The answer is a clear “no.” The cast of Chicacabra may not be real, but they are Tom Beland. As someone familiar with his work and who he is, the characters, inner conflicts and familial concepts here flow directly from Beland’s everyday world and experiences. The framework for those ideas is a piece of fantastic fiction about a young woman and a chance encounter with a powerful, near-mythological and majestic beast, but the story itself is about family and loss, about surviving and thriving. Beland’s message is abundantly clear: to isolate oneself from others is to die, and to connect with people is to live.

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