SPX Spotlight: Bamn 3

This is part of Panel Patter's SPX Spotlight, a series of reviews of work from creators or publishers who will be attending SPX in 2011 leading up to the show on September 10th and 11th, 2011!

Bamn #3
Written by Troy Jeffrey-Allen
Illustrated by Jay Payne

Bamn is a former wrestler who's just about ready to give up about everything.  But when he meets a group of well meaning but clueless high school kids with a thing for wrestling and a set of tormentors who use their wrestling skills for bad ends, our over-the-hill hero might just have some good left in him after all.

As the story moves into its third issue, Bamn debates the best course of action while the kids themselves start to think about what they need to do to survive high school and move on with their lives.  Will their plans mesh with Bamn's?  Can Bamn convince the jocks that picking on people isn't the best way to go through life?  It's a matter of thinking of the future in the third issue of...Bamn.

This was an odd one for me, because the extent of my interest in wrestling peaked somewhere in 1987.  I am vaguely aware of the fact that wrestling has different leagues and top stars who often go in and out of fashion as the leagues need them to, not unlike game show panelists.  Beyond that, I'm essentially clueless.

That means that some of the impact of Bamn is lost on me.  Part of what makes this interesting is the wrestling dynamic, but it's hard for me to get into that part of things.  I expect, however, that if you were a fan of wrestling, it would be easy to appreciate the little touches in costuming and philosophy that are included here to give this a different angle from the plethora of other comics that deal with bullying in high school.

It's a bit hard to get a feel for the message here.  We know to root for the underdog kids, but I'm not sure I quite get why the bullies are so evil.  (Perhaps that was in the first two issues?)  I'm also a little unclear why Bamn is so serious about getting involved.  He definitely takes on risk by menacing kids, even indirectly.  I can't tell if this is like a Karate Kid type thing or if maybe he was just as weak as the teens he's trying to mentor now.  I'm sure that's either been explained or will be made clearer as time goes on.

The story itself is paced well, with a few action sequences, some moments of build-up, and a bit of time spent on subplots that compliment the overall work.  I admit to finding the crude dialog a bit too much at times--I get that kids swear, but it's overdone here, I think.  Other than that, the dialog works well for the characters, with adults lecturing (on purpose) while the kids of all kinds either accept or reject the advice.  Jeffrey-Allen does a good job with adjusting how characters talk, which is a nice skill to have as a writer.

Payne's artwork deals in exaggeration, which I think is the right move for a wrestling story.  Bamn is entirely too big to be real, but that never bothered me.  Similarly, he uses perspective to aid in the perceptions of strength and weakness among the characters.  Overall, the effect feels animated, but more of a set of frame-by-frame stills.  Sometimes figures are a bit on the stiff side, and I wish they'd be more fluid, particularly when they're being confrontational.  I'd love to see more angled placement, action lines, and things of that nature.  The art does the job it needs to, and I'm sure in time that Payne will refine things a bit more.

Overall, for a comic that I came into late and features an entertainment medium that doesn't particularly interest me, I liked this one better than I expected to.  I'm not sure I'd read to issue four personally, but I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys stories set in high school and wrestling.  Anyone who likes both should find this a winning combination.

You can pick up Bamn #3 at SPX this year, but if you can't make it to the show, look for it on the website for the comic, which currently has 1 and 2 available.  I'm sure it will be there soon.

[Troy Jeffrey-Allen was kind enough to provide a copy of Bamn #3 for me to review.  Thanks!  If you are interested in having me review your comic, please get in touch with me at trebro@gmail.com.]