‘Foster Volume 1:’ TPB Review

Brian Buccellato’s Foster is a labor of love, and it shows on every page, from the introduction by long-time friend Robert Place Napton to the final scene.  Eddie Foster is a down-and-out war vet living on the fringes of the gritty, grimy, noir-ish Vintage City.  He has chosen the life of a drunk, and his mantra is to only look out for himself.  When we meet him, the world wants nothing to do with him, and he wants nothing to do with the world.  Things take a turn when he takes in his absentee neighbor’s six-year-old son Ben and suddenly finds himself protecting the boy from monsters, scientists, and the police, not to mention from Eddie’s own poor choices and inner demons.  As these first six issues unfold, Buccellato slowly pulls back the layers of Eddie’s past and lets us into his emotionally damaged psyche.  You find yourself both liking and loathing Eddie Foster as he battles against his own selfish impulses, setting himself up for failure sometimes, and doing all he can to help Ben at other times.  Kudos to Buccellato for revealing Eddie’s dark, tragic backstory slowly and for leaving it up to the reader to decide how much of his past is his fault and how much is due to his experiences.  But, even if the mistakes in Eddie’s past are due to his experiences, does that really let him off the hook for the choices he’s made?  That is a question that Buccellato asks the reader, and that Eddie struggles with constantly, and this is part of what makes him such a complex, compelling character.    

Buccellato wanted to create a book that evoked the films and stories that he grew up with in the seventies, and he accomplishes that goal in spades with Foster.  Eddie could be a character straight out of an early Scorsese film, and Buccellato channels the tone of the seventies urban drama, crime or otherwise.  He creates pathos for the rough and ragged Eddie, haunted by memories that even alcohol won't let him forget, making Eddie a true anti-hero.  The most intelligent and emotionally realistic aspect of Foster is that Eddie does not simply turn into a good guy the moment he becomes Ben’s protector.  Real people are not like that, and Buccellato knows this, and, instead, gives us a man who is stuck in between, his moral compass smashed to pieces years ago.  He is picking up the pieces one by one, but it is a difficult process for him, and painful too.  

Noel Tuazon’s art at first threw me off with its rough, loose style, aided by Buccellato's almost watercolor-influenced colors, but the more I read I realized this style is perfect for Foster. The art captures the gritty, analog days of the seventies, where the poor and prosperous existed right alongside each other, and corruption and crime ran amok.  But, the main reason the art works is because it represents the way Eddie Foster's life has fallen apart. He exists in a stupor of anger and regret, and everyone around him is nothing more than faceless shapes.  Also, Tuazon brings a unique look to the Dwellers, the monsters who live beneath the city and exist only in the shadows.  They wear large trench coats and porkpie hats, and their movements and faces are often a blur, giving them an air of mystery and danger.  Because Tuazon presents them with very few specific details, we are able to project our own fears onto the Dwellers, making them even more terrifying.  On the other side of things, Mike Henderson's covers give us a glimpse of what Foster might look like if Eddie's life was happier, and less desperate.

Foster, put out by indie publisher OSSM Comics and Buccellato’s own Dog Year Entertainment, is overflowing with style and emotion, and there is a definitive tone running through the whole book that never wavers.  In between issues three and four is a short note from Buccellato talking about how amazing it has been to make Foster and how important and close the project is to him.  And, his comments are sincere.  You can feel his enthusiasm throughout the entire book, especially in the most personal scenes.  Buccellato knows these characters inside and out, and along with Tuazon he makes them real to us.  This first collection has a conclusion to it, and it ends with a bravura climax, but this just the first chapter in Eddie and Ben’s story, and I look forward to seeing how their relationship progresses.  Both of them have their own problems, but together they may be able to provide one another with some much needed support and happiness.  With Foster, Buccellato taps into our fears and insecurities and creates a dark, seedy world, but shows us that while we may not always be able to see it, there is always hope.

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