I’ve been with AP2HYC for almost two years now, and in that time I’ve tumbled down a rabbit hole that’s littered with the weird and wonderful comic book series and graphic novels from the UK’s independent comic book scene. The Led Zeppelin/Star Wars mash-up 7String and the Torchwood-meets-Only Fools and Horses uniqueness of Afterlife Inc. have become firm favourites of mine, and I keep promising myself to sit down and study the bizarre F*ck You Kitty Jenkins and the Jimi Hendrix/Asterix supergroup that is Tales of Bardic Fury from cover to cover.
But one title has kept me hooked more than others – the insane, the indescribable and the ingenious Torsobear from writer/artist Brett Uren. Torsobear began life as one of the first comic books I ever reviewed for AP2HYC, which was all the way back in mid-2014. Since then, Torsobear now consists of two graphic novels, both funded through Kickstarter, and both tell deliriously bespoke stories of injustice, betrayal, love, villains and a fluffy-hearted hero at the centre of it all.
Torsobear tells the hard-boiled, fluffy noir story of Detective Ruxby Bear’s ongoing (or should that be never-ending?) fight for justice in the gruesome city of Toyburg, a toy world brought to life via greed, corruption and death. Both volumes present a subversive world that is something of a blending of Sin City and Toy Story on its surface, but its anthology-narrative, diverse artwork and complicated characters make it a work of fiction that pierces through comparisons.
Torsobear Volume 2: All Stitched Up was released a couple of months ago, so I thought I’d guide you through six reasons why Torsobear should be on your bookshelf!
6. The Artwork
The basic source of enjoyment to be found in both Torsobear books lies in the artwork, and its sheer diversity. Throughout both volumes, Uren employs a rogues gallery of talent from the indie comic scene. The shifts in art styles may not be the smoothest of rides for everyone, but they highlight the anthology nature of the books and compliments the uniqueness of Torsobear in general.
Uren’s own artwork, thick in detail and rich in colour, is Torsobear‘s visual trademark. Several other fantastic artists lend their individual styles to Torsobear‘s success, but Uren is clearly the man with the vision, and his own artwork executes that vision splendidly.
5. The World-building
The loose, anthology nature of Torsobear gives it the dexterous knack of some solid yet subtle world-building. Neither Torsobear volumes tell a straight-forward story, which gives Torsobear the freedom to spin-off in multiple directions at once, crafting a sumptuous universe to take place in.
The world of Torsobear is full of towns that rain lemon drops, buildings made from human-sized gas cookers and arcade video game machines, great tower blocks made from LEGO, and outskirts with such names as Giftrap Range, The Craftlands, and Fort Blankie. It’s wonderfully complimentary of Torsobear‘s twisted nature, and makes for great pouring over when you’ve finished reading each volume.
4. The Evolution
On paper, Torsobear: All Stitched Up shouldn’t work. The novel sees Ruxby framed for a crime he didn’t commit rather out of the blue, separating him from Officer Hazbrow, and effectively splitting the novel into two entities – one that sees Ruxby locked up in The Corner, trying to work out who could have framed him and why, and Hazbrow dealing with a city that seemingly becomes more corrupt as each day passes. Narrative-wise, things are even looser than Yarns from Toyburg, with Ruxby and Hazbrow’s efforts bookending a novel full of individual stories of criminals and lost souls of Toyburg.
However, All Stitched Up feels effortless in its role as a follow-up to Yarns from Toyburg. As we journey deeper into the minds and souls of the individuals Ruxby spends his days arresting, a darker and more intimate picture of Toyburg is painted than the one we were introduced to in Yarns from Toyburg. What All Stitched Up may lack in narrative thrust it more than makes up for in its atmosphere. Almost without telling a direct story, All Stitched Up succeeds in creating repercussions that will surely ripple throughout future adventures for Ruxby.