REVIEW: Foster #1

You might not have heard of Brian Buccellato, but you probably should have.  The Flash has, over the course of its first 5 issues, grown into one of the top tier books of the New 52, and a lot of people give well-deserved credit for this success to artist extraordinaire (and now writer of the book) Francis Manapul.  But he hasn’t done it alone.  Buccellato is the colorist on the book, his soft tones the perfect compliment to Manapul’s lush brushwork.  And he is also the co-writer of the series, meaning they should share credit for giving us a narrative that’s actually managed to upstage Geoff Johns’ work on the previous volume.  Buccellato has already done enough to be conisdered to be considered a name of note in the comics industry.  But his new creator-owned series, Foster, could be the platform where that talent is given more recognition.

Foster #1 sees Buccellato step up to solo writer duties, with a tale about an alcoholic Vietnam veteran (the Foster of the title, which of course has a double meaning) who finds himself the unlikely and unwilling carer of an abandoned child.  Things get more complicated when it turns out highly dangerous people are after young Ben, and, more shockingly, that Ben himself might be more  dangerous than he appears…

In his intro, Buccellato speaks of Foster as an homage to the gritty cinema of the 1970s, particularly urban crime dramas like Dirty Harry or The French Connection.  You definitely get that grubby, bleak vibe from the story, before it takes a turn into genre territory.  The character of Foster himself is incredibly compelling: deeply flawed, but with a streak of humanity and compassion that he can’t keep buried, much as he might try.  One thing I liked is that he’s not your typical badass.  When accosted by a sinister intruder looking for Ben, he tells the bad guy where to find the boy to avoid a beating, then spends time cowering in his apartment with a gun, worried only for his own safety.  He’s a damaged, complicated individual, and it should be intriguing to see what this state of enforced fatherhood will do to bring out the better man in him.

I had heard good things about Foster through the #comicmarket grapevine, and was already curious to learn more, but what made me bite the bullet and immediately jump right into buying the first issue was seeing Noel Tuazon’s name on the marquee as artist.  Tuazon’s stunning work on Tumor made me a fan, so much so that his involvement with this project made me instantly invested in at least checking it out.  And with Foster #1, he doesn’t disappoint.

What’s impressive about Tuazon’s art style is that, though its sketchy and the characters are quite simple and stylised, he still manages to draw the maximum amount of emotion from these relatively abstract figures.  He does this through a mastery of body language, and a talent for framing a panel in just the way to trigger the intended emotional connection with the character inside.  Foster is the kind of character that comes to life vividly under his pen, feeling much like a spiritual successor to the haunted Frank Armstrong of Joshua Hale Fialkov’s Tumor.

If I had a nitpick, it might be that the story doesn’t really need color.  Tuazon’s work is so stark and dramatic in black and white, that at times it feels like the color only serves to dilute the impact.  I can understand why it’s in color, of course.  Buccalleto is primarily employed as a colorist, and he does it well, so why not apply that gift to his own comic?  And just because it’s not strictly necessary doesn’t mean the color doesn’t have its strengths.  Because the pallette is so washed out, it’s largely through the coloring that this feeling of 1970s cinema homage is most palpable.  And the bright green of Foster’s jacket amidst this sea of grays and brown is a good way of making the character stand out.

Overall, I was really impressed with Foster #1.  It just flew by as I read it, and I found myself quickly engaged in the narrative and where it goes next.  I look forward to Foster #2!

Foster #1 is available to buy digitally from Brian Buccellato’s website, or in select comic stores from February 22nd.

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