Welcome to the wild and wooly world of writer Damon Gentry and artist Aaron Conley’s wholly unique Sabertooth Swordsman and the Mayhem of the Malevolent Mastodon Mathematician. After a puny villager’s wife is kidnapped by the Mastodon Mathematician’s henchman, he travels to the sacred Sasquatch Mountain to be transformed by the Cloud God into a hero capable of rescuing her, and that hero is Sabertooth Swordsman. From there, the story only gets weirder as Sabertooth Swordsman’s quest to find and rescue his wife Joleen leads him to strange, frightening places, encounters with duplicitous and downright hideous people and monsters, and straight into pummeling after pummeling. While he may get the tar kicked out of him time and time again, and he may be smashed by crumbling buildings more than once, he never gives up, facing his enemies head-on, slicing them in half and tearing them to ribbons, all in the name of love.
Gentry and Conley have created a giant, twisting, subversive, hilarious, violent, and heartfelt adventure, and they bandy their story about from dark to absurd like cats playing with a yarn ball. You can’t help but get caught up in their excitement and unbridled creativity. Conley’s art is insanely intricate and detailed, each page overflowing with incredible art. He works in both macro and micro, and around the broad action and comedy he creates delicate minutiae that enhance the environments and overall world of the story. The fantastical Middle Eastern setting is evoked throughout the book with ornate page and panel borders and frames and gorgeously blends action with art. At times there is almost too much happening on a page, and you may feel yourself losing the story thread, but this just requires you to pour over the page more until your eyes can work out Conley’s amazing artwork to see the contorted form of Sabertooth Swordsman as he is assaulted by terrifying hag monsters or eviscerating the Mastodon’s entire army. The art is all in black, white, and grey, and that is the main reason that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish action from background, but the art is all incredible. The character designs are elaborate and sometimes hilariously ugly or absurdly large, while Sabertooth Swordsman looks awesome and lean, his facial expressions perfectly relaying his anger, fear, sadness, and exasperation during his quest, and his determination to save his wife and to “beat the living snot” out of the Mastodon Mathematician.
The story is a blend of slapstick humor, sight gags, violence, and heart, all brought together by surrealist and absurdist imagery, echoing the work of artists such as Salvador Dali. The whole thing creates a type of stylized fever dream, and the art and story lure you in until you are completely enveloped by the adventure. The comedy comes naturally, and while you don’t laugh at Sabertooth Swordsman’s misfortune and bad luck, you laugh at the absurdity of his circumstances and the incredible amounts of destruction he leaves in his wake. Published by Dark Horse after initially running as a digital miniseries, there is much to love in Sabertooth Swordsman and the Mayhem of the Malevolent Mastodon Mathematician, and much to make you laugh, and much to try and wrap your head around. All of these elements make this an incredible book, but, above all, it is remarkable, because you believe in Sabertooth Swordsman, because he is fighting and willing to risk everything for true love. While everything around him may be absurd, there is nothing absurd about true love.