(Mat Heagerty / JD Smith / Jon Cairns / Ed Brisson)
While at Image Expo 2013 I had the pleasure of meeting Mat Heagerty, an enthusiastic and eager young comics maker, who gave me a copy of the book he's writing, a five issue series called Just Another Sheep. Just Another Sheep is a Vietnam-era story about a young man, Banning, who can make people feel anything he has felt – like when he broke his arm or got food poisoning or got really drunk, for example.
In this first issue, Banning is on a bus in Washington, D.C. on his way to Boston when a couple of fellows take umbrage with the peace sign on his bag (because rednecks hate hippies, you know). Banning uses his power, gets thrown off the bus, and ends up following this cute flower power gal to a anti-Vietnam rally where he smokes pot and parties with a group of political activists. From there, things get a little out of hand.
There is a particular earnestness about Just Another Sheep. Heagerty really, really, really wants you to grok where he's coming from and empathize with his character. There's a bit of a pacing problem to his writing, though. Things move way too quickly for the reader to get any sense of who the characters are or what motivates them. This leads to a reliance on cliches in order to move the story forward, which leads to a disconnect between the audience and the storyteller. There are some interesting characters in Just Another Sheep. I want to know who they are. Heagerty selfishly keeps that information from me.
What saves this book, though, is JD Smith's art and Jon Cairn's coloring. There are a couple of moments in Just Another Sheep, especially the two page spread when Banning gets high for the first time, that are artistically awesome. Smith plays with the psychedelic expectations we have with a book set in the late 1960's, and adds a level of humor to the mix. Cairns takes Smith's pencils and layers a softness to them with his palette, giving Just Another Sheep kind of a unique look. It draws you in somehow, in a good way.
This is a book overflowing with intent. There's almost a primordial bubbling to its pages. This is the work of some very young creators who have just crawled out of the ocean onto land and are just now breathing oxygen. It will be interesting to see where they go once they get their legs under them.
You can purchase Just Another Sheep from their web site here.