Although this is a sequel to Into the Woods, published in 2012, readers can enter the storyline without previous knowledge of the characters and their relationships to each other and to the prominent Bigfoot reference on the cover.
The second volume of this series begins with a storytelling session of contemporary environmental concerns infused with supernatural agency to provide an introduction to the foundation of the storyline: the ability to transform from human to Sasquatch. (Why the story text identifies the being as a Sasquatch while the series refers to it as Bigfoot may be a bigger mystery than can be addressed in this book review.) The telling of the story — which takes place around a campfire of a group of young males in uniform, perhaps boy scouts — is done by a possible First Nations scout leader. The storyteller’s prophetic words, visually complemented by a leading arm, guide readers into the central tale: “Some say he will return when the Forest needs him again. They say the totem will resurface…” (14).
The animated friendship between ten-year-old Rufus, who is visiting is grandmother, and his playmate Penny was established in the previous volume. Penny has introduced him to the pleasures and mysteries of the woods, encouraged his friendship with his pet squirrel, and understands his fascination with the totem found in his previous visit. This totem, when accompanied by the shouting of the word Sasquatch, transforms Rufus into Bigfoot Boy. This time, however, Rufus’ joyful transformation was watched by a cluster of covetous ravens that immediately plot to acquire the totem for themselves. While Penny is pleased with Rufus’s return, she is disappointed that he has been using his transformative powers for trite activities. Penny and her family are environmentalists, stewards of the land, but before Rufus can do much to help out, his totem is stolen by the ravens. What follows is a story of adventure, excitement, friendship, and promise — especially promise, as the book ends with Rufus leaving the woods without his pet squirrel and without his totem. “To be continued…” is the final text placed on a full page illustration of Rufus’s family leaving the woods overseen by a very familiar cloud formation: Bigfoot Boy will return!
Hicks illustrated the story in large, coloured panels that, for the most part, focus on the faces and emotions of the characters. Particularly effective, for this reviewer, were the ravens themselves. The birds are nasty tricksters who, ironically, seem to be unaware of the identity of the traditional character of Sasquatch. “A boy who can turn into a big, red, bearlike creature!” (46). The illustrations offer bold splashes of mostly earthy colours, emotions, adventure and atmosphere even though there is very little use of detailed backgrounds in the panels. The only white spaces are the borders, the gutters, and the speech balloons. The few full page illustrations bleed to the edge of the pages, however, emphasizing the importance of those portrayed moments.
Torres and Hicks have modified First Nations folklore from the Canadian west coast, set it in an unidentified setting, and played with tropes familiar to readers of comic books and popular culture of an earlier era to create a fast moving contemporary tale. According to an interview with author J. Torres, “Bigfoot Boy is kind of a mashup of Captain Marvel (Shazam) and Sasquatch from Alpha Flight” (Grearson). Homage is paid through the illustrations to original inhabitants but not to any particular group of people. The Q’achi totem? Who are the Q’achi people? While I appreciated the storyline and the illustrations so far, I really am sitting on the fence until the series has been completed.
Bigfoot Boy, vol. 2: The Unkindness of Ravens
by J. Torres
Art by Faith Erin Hicks
Kids Can Press, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: 7-10