Andrez Bergen is a prolific author, comic creator, and generally creative person. I’ve reviewed a good many of his novels, comics, and other works over the years. They cover a variety of different settings, characters, and themes . . . but, somehow, they nearly always come back to Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat.
TSMG was Bergen’s first novel, published in 2011. Since then, however, it’s become so much more than that. Having paved the way for everything from Who Is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? to the Bullet Gal comics, it’s the thread that unites them all, and the world in which Bergen plays.
In 2014, Bergen adapted the first third of the novel into graphic novel form, with a gritty, photomanipulation art style which has since become his trademark. Now, he’s expanded and polished the comic a bit and is rereleasing it in serialized form—in Bergen’s own words, “Told in more detail, without trying to pull a George Lucas.”
What does that mean? Well, since I reviewed the original graphic novel when it came out, I decided to pull it out see. The differences are mostly subtle: some different formatting, some slight changes in artwork. There are a few pages of extra narrative added at the end, but other than that, there’s little different that you’d notice without a side-by-side comparison.
However, nearly all the changes—except for one graphic whose coloring I like better in the original (a minor quibble to say the least)—make the story flow better. It’s not just tampering for the sake of tampering. It really does improve the comic and the story in general.
So, what IS the story? A cataclysmic event has wiped out most of the world’s population. The only habitable city left is Melbourne, which has become a dirty, overcrowded dystopia run by the Hylax Corporation. In this issue, we meet Wolram Deaps, CEO of Hylax, who warns us of a new threat to the populace: the Deviant Menace. We’re also introduced to Floyd Maquina, a hard-boiled, hard-drinking type, who’s . . . not exactly a private detective, but close enough, for our purposes.
The gritty, dystopian setting lends itself perfectly to a noir style which gives the story a Blade Runner-type feel, which is heightened by the artwork. Bergen has created a richly detailed world, and it’s clear that so far, we’ve only just scratched the surface of what it has to offer. If you like gritty noir and/or sci-fi dystopias, then you’d do well to check out this first issue of Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat.