A devilish cold has been rampaging through the Fierro house, and in the midst of our cough syrup and cold medicine stupor, I rummaged through a couple of stacks of recent comicbook purchases looking for this week’s review piece. After recent convention visits and trips to our local comic book shops, the “to read” pile is steadily getting out of hand. Consequently, I completely forgot about the volume of Brian Buccellato’s Foster that was hiding underneath a copy of Will Eisner’s To the Heart of the Storm (on the to read list…) until I pulled apart the precarious stack of books above our modest comicbook shelf.
Truth be told, I probably never would have picked up Foster based on its cover. Upon opening up the collection, it is evident that Foster wants to eat, breathe, and consume the 70s of Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets and James Toback’s Fingers, but the cover gives off more of a Rambo with a hint of werewolf scent. Thankfully, the psudo-script opening written by Robert Place Napton describing or pondering on Buccellato’s origins lured me in and opened the curtain for the character of Eddie Foster and the setting of Vintage City, a future wasteland and composite of America’s major cities in the 1970s.
Buccellato’s first full-creator controlled series, Foster, exists in 6 issues that trace the first arc for Eddie Foster. A Vietnam War veteran, Eddie struggles to re-adapt into society. We know he saw ghastly things and committed the same in Vietnam, and as a result of his sins and those of others, Eddie cannot function as a husband, father, or working man. Instead, he remains in a haze of depression and alcoholism, languishing in the ruins of his past and present.
Adapted to the wreckage of his current state, Eddie attempts to rise above, but he lacks a clear reason to live. Redemption may be something he craves, but he is so mired in his regrets that he is unaware of it. That is, until, one day, his next door neighbor’s son, Ben, appears to be orphaned by his dysfunctional mom, and Eddie Foster must serve as his guardian, caretaker, and protector in the days to come.
In parallel to Eddie Foster’s chance to redeem himself as a father, the leader of the Dwellers has returned to Vintage City, and he wants his son back to become the heir of the Dweller kingdom. Part ape, part wolf, part human, the Dwellers lurk in the night, picking off the unnoticable of members of the city’s society. They quietly rule the underworld of Vintage City, and they are ready to emerge at the surface.
The Dwellers not only interest those fascinated with the supernatural beings of nightmares but also the geneticist Doctor Marjorie Fisher, who wants to learn more about the biology of the creatures. Consequently, Marjorie has had a few conversations with Ben’s mother, Trina, because Ben is not just the adorable six year old he appears to be. In fact, he may only be the only documented half-human, half-Dweller to exist.
Thus, the task of caring for Ben involves far more than just taking him to school, preparing his meals, and providing him with a place called home. Eddie must protect Ben from Dr. Fisher and the Dweller king, both who want him for their own motivations, and both who will prevent Ben from ever having any consent in the course of his future. So, despite the characters and plot which have hues of Vietnam Veteran, werewolf, and science fiction tales, Foster, at its core, explores the meaning of being a parent in a world in disrepair. Eddie, the Dweller king, and Dr. Fisher all represent different parental motivations with Eddie as the unlikely (and unconventional) but most supportive parent, the Dweller king as the genetically tied parent demanding filial loyalty, and Dr. Marjorie Fisher as the parent interested in studying and experimenting on her own child.
While the dialog does get a bit clumsy here and there, Foster, stands as an accomplished first full creator-owned work for Buccellato because his own battles with parenting ascend from the action sequences and the Dweller battles of the series, making Foster a far more introspective and ruminative work than it would seem on its action-packed surface. I am a firm believer in synchronicity, and it is of no surprise that reading Foster reminded me of a film we caught at AFI Fest 2015 and remains fresh in my mind, Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan. Buccellato and Audiard have similar sensibilities in understanding the differences between genetic and constructed families, and both Dheepan and Foster involve war veterans on a track for redemption via the protection of their non-traditional families. In turn, both are able to balance an enormous amount of action with sympathy and emotion, creating a story that should not only pull in people attracted to explosions and gunfire but also those who prefer more conversationally based, pensive works.
And while I do emphasize that Foster at a superficial level looks like a comicbook inspired by a extravagant action films of the 70s and beyond, I must admit that I love Walter Hill’s Southern Comfort and Streets of Fire, both of which have covers and surfaces that do the same, so perhaps my appreciation of Foster is not such a surprise after all.
Foster is written and colored by Brain Buccellato and drawn by Noel Tuazon. The first volume with the first six chapters/issues is available via OSSM Comics.