Written by: Andrez Bergen
Art by: Andrez Bergen
Published by: Project Nerd Publishing
Andrez Bergen is back with another sci-fi/noir mash-up in Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat, a comic adaptation of his first ever novel. Set in a world where a virus has wiped out most of life on Earth, most of humanity exists in the domed city of Melbourne, Australia. The public’s biggest fear are those who dare to break the law, deviants, with seekers employed to keep the peace. The comic follows one such seeker named Floyd who’s tasked with finding a missing person.
What surprised me most, and was the book’s strongest strength, was Bergen’s trademark photo collage art. Being adapted from a novel, I was expecting the book to be quite wordy and stiff, yet for the majority this is a very visually focused read. There’s a lot more colour going on compared to Bullet Gal, though it sets the scene for the world brilliantly. Life in the dome has a grim fakery about it, and there’s a good contrast between the bright, public image and the seedy underworld of the seekers. Bergen’s style is made very easily digestible, and even with quite a high concept, it comes across very accessibly and makes for a comfortable reading experience. I never had to fight to understand what was going on or struggle with the images, whenever I lingered on pages it was for genuine enjoyment of the art rather than any feeling of incomprehension.
Revisiting Bergen’s earliest work in retrospective also makes for a fun experience. There’s little teases to stuff that will go on to be central to his later works, however they never distract from the main story. Being the inception for Bergen’s insane spiralling world, this is one of his more simplistic tales, however that is not in any regard a criticism. There’s still that highly creative sci-fi edge to the story, it is probably the most accessible entry point into Bergen’s work though, which makes it very easy to recommend. If there’s ever been a time to jump into this world it’s now, an interesting premise and fascinating world are laid out and I can’t wait to see where it goes.
If I had any criticisms, they’d have to do with the book’s ending. Being a serialized version of a complete novel, pacing will of course being issue going forward as cut off points have to be made, it was disappointing though when the issue ended just as I had gotten invested in the world and the main story showed signs of progression. Strangely, the final section also has an entire page that’s just text from the novel. I appreciate the experimental quality, as that’s what makes Bergen’s work enjoyable, and the page itself is well written, though given how much of my enjoyment came from Bergen interpreting his own world through different images I was a little disappointed at relying on just the text. It was an odd pacing choice towards the end, though I still put the book down excited to read what would come next.
Overall, Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat offers potentially the best jumping on point to get into the bizarre, gritty world of Andrez Bergen’s head. There’s a fascinating concept, an interesting story and absolutely gorgeous art on show here. While there are a few hiccups in the adaptation, the strengths more than outweigh the negatives, leaving me excited to see how the rest of the tale will be translated. If you’re in the market for something a little different, with absolutely gorgeous presentation values, Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat is the book for you. If you are interested, you can order a copy online here.