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Comic Book Review: Nature of the Beast

Posted 6 years ago by Comics


Bruno Bolo has issues. His wife died a few years ago, leaving him alone to raise his rebellious daughter. He has a bit of a drinking problem, and his one and only friend is The Duke, one of the largest alligators in captivity. To eek out a living, Bruno stars in a small roadside attraction where he and The Duke wrestle a couple of times a day to the oohs and awes of easily impressed tourists. So when he’s approached by a reality TV producer looking to stage Beast Wars, a battle royale of the meanest animals on the planet to determine who the real King of the Jungle is, Bruno agrees to enter The Duke into the contest in exchange for $100,000 a match.

Held on a remote island away from animal cruelty laws, Beast Wars is a truly savage contest featuring fight tickets that seem to have been inspired by listening in on a group of middle school boys at recess, like Shark vs Polar Bear and Alligator vs Gorilla vs Lion. Of course it’s not exactly natural for a gorilla and an alligator to fight (especially to the death), so the showrunners have developed a special spray that greatly enhances an animal’s aggressive tendencies. Curious, Bruno decides to try out a single shot of the stuff himself and it sends him into a berserker rage, letting out all that pent up anger and the feelings of helplessness that he’s been holding back since his wife died and his life went down the tubes. He quickly becomes addicted to the spray and its sense of raw freedom, finding that the more he inhales the less human he becomes.

Little do Bruno and the rest of the world know that Beast Wars isn’t just an exploitative cash-grab meant to piss off PETA. The man financing the show is media mogul billionaire Milan Marlowe, and his true intention is to find Earth’s fiercest combatant so that the winner can take on a giant, intelligent, amoeba-like alien in a fight that will decide the fate of the entire planet. But by the time the dust settles on his televised survival of the fittest-athon, the world finds that it must put its faith in what is truly the most vicious of all species: man.

Nature of the Beast is a strange graphic novel. Not that that’s a bad thing. The whole book has a rather odd tone, which plays in its favor. On the one hand, it’s a bit dry and detached. Bruno isn’t exactly the most personable or relatable character and comes off as an anti-hero only looking out for himself and his daughter. At first anyway. As the story progresses, he finds much-needed release in his chemically-enhanced, animalistic outbursts, and it helps him become a nicer guy; it’s sort of a therapeutic violent release like the kind seen in Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. With that in mind, it’s a pretty graphic book, but the carnage is so over the top that it crosses over from disgusting to slapstick and is clearly intended to be taken with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Nature of the Beast

Gorilla vs. Alligator. Awesome.

Writers Douglas McGowan and Adam Mansbach, best known for the parody phenomenon Go the F*ck to Sleep, provide a nice sense of balance here. There are plenty of scenes that would appeal to Ultimate Fighter fanboys, but just as many that deal with religion and the notion of self-sacrifice. It’s also a very funny book, with plenty of great one-liners and absurd, yet clever ideas.

The artwork from Owen Brozman is really well done. Many times in comics that don’t feature superheroes with symbols on their chest, telling the characters apart can be difficult. Here, though, Brozman’s character designs and style makes everyone recognizable and unique. His animals and action sequences are handled with a deft hand as well, providing a nice amount of detail to give us a realistic look, but scaling back to ensure things don’t get muddled.

In conclusion, it’s pretty clear that Nature of the Beast isn’t going to appeal to everyone. There’s plenty of crazy fun interspecies battling to keep most action movie fans happy, but there’s also enough character drama and philosophy underneath the blood and guts to keep things from becoming a cartoon. If you think you’re up for it, it’s well worth checking out.

Nature of the Beast by Adam Mansbach, Douglas McGowan, and Owen Brozman is currently available at Amazon.com and at your local comic shop.