Tyrant Issue Two:

Blood and Berries

The second issue of Tyrant starts on a more introspective note than the first. Steve Bissette opens the story with a quote from Alfred Hitchcock’s film, Vertigo:

Somewhere in here I was born, and there I died. It was only a moment to you — you took no notice.

The opening image of this comic is a full page, silhouetted, drawing of pine trees, with just the faintest hint of a forest in the background. The title, written in the same coarse font as the first issue, reads Blood and Berries. Both issues now Bissette has chosen to open with a graphic image as opposed to a more striking drawing and the effect is strong. The title page for Blood and Berries is substantially less bombastic than the first issue, which is in keeping with the tone of the issue. The next two pages are entirely wordless. Bissette depicts Eggsucker, from issue one, in a lushly rendered forest, approaching a bloody patch in the ground. The next page establishes the meaning behind the title; Eggsucker examines the blood noting “pungent urine…panic…fear”. He looks closer, and Bissette’s intensely detailed drawings of the feathered Eggsucker exceed expectations, you can tell exactly what this Dinosaur’s skin would feel like. Eggsucker discovers “torn flesh, split blood…….and berries.” The berry Eggsucker pulls from the blood glistens in his beak; you can see the shine in his eyes and the folds in his skin. It’s a beautiful drawing. Bissette shows a little more restraint in these first panels; he waits until a panel where Eggsucker leaps towards a fallen hatchling to draw an irregular panel, matching it to Eggsucker’s movements. Here the focus switches from Eggsucker to the hatchling. It cries while ants consume its siblings. This marks the start of a series of frequent POV changes, detailing the ultimate protagonist of this issue, the forest itself.

Steve Bissette describes the actions of a spider completing her nest. In the background of this panel, Eggsucker can be seen eating the Hatchling. This visual interconnectedness will continue throughout the issue. This interwoven nature is emphasized by the next page’s first narration “the weave of the forest itself is shifting.” Bissette then backtracks, describing the “invisible war” among the saplings, which previously were growing in the shadows of a massive tree, for the sun now exposed to them. This fallen tree appears to be the reason the aforementioned hatchlings fell to their deaths. Bissette then makes brief mention of the “previously hidden populace” which lived “beneath the tumbled giant”. The use of the word giant ties this fallen tree back to the mythological focus of the first issue and contrasts it with the focus on the interwoven lives of the seemingly insignificant creatures of the forest. The next page focuses on soldier-ants. Bissette loses the ant, making it clear he will continue to dance around the scientific names for his animal protagonists. The “Soldiers” struggle to rescue their eggs and larvae from the ruins of the tree: “Powerful jaws capable of crushing and cutting now cradle infant and pupae alike with a tender efficiency.” Bissette seems very focused on contrasts throughout this story and this description of both violence and motherly behaviour is one he will return to and was one of his primary focuses for the series.

Steve Bissette then describes the plight of “displaced burrowers” who flee “before the ants can mass against them.” Prehistoric ants were large and probably surprisingly threatening to creatures of the right size. These intertwined descriptions of animals are set in a “bloody wake cut through the woodlands” that one can, at this point, presume is due to some great act of violence. This would seem to be in line with the opening discovery of blood and berries. Bissette then seems to lose the sort of direct thread he had been employing before than to describe the bursting fungi in the warpath’s remnants. Salamander eggs sit in marsh water and the next panel describes the changing path of the swamp water (the airborne seeds flying with the fungus spores can be seen in the background). The swamp water sits in massive footprints. Frogs vie for mates in the foot-shaped puddles. Bissette’s art is phenomenal throughout these pages; you can practically feel the mud between your toes and the splintered tree-bark on your hand.

The next page is a full panelled drawing of the broken trees and mud piled up. The bottom of the page features a wet footprint with some conspicuous frogs. At the peak of the wreckage is Tyrant’s Mum, who has a corpse in her mouth (one of the nesting herbivores from issue one). “She has something… There is something in her mouth” writes Bissette “Something loose… Wet.” The next page is a full page spread broken into three panels. Steve Bissette chooses to eliminate the panel lines as they cross through the white of the background. The drawing is a closer image of the limp herbivore in Tyrant’s Mum’s mouth, a spectacular mess of scales and trees with a hint of blood. Blood and berries drop from the herbivore’s mouth. The narration switches to the herbivore’s point of view:

She found berries… She has berries in her mouth… She has to keep them in her mouth until she can return to the nest… Her little is hungry.

The herbivore drops from the T-Rex’s jaws. The herbivore focuses on the berries, noting the salty taint to them. “Perhaps she can still crawl.” So desperate is the herbivore that she still can only think about her own offspring’s’ hunger. The fourth full page spread in a row (the third to break up the illustration with panels) shows the herbivore desperately crawling away from Tyrant’s Mum. The T-Rex roars and the herbivore spurts blood from a massive gash in her side. “She has to feed her little ones” is her last, instinctual thought as she dies. The next page is yet another full page drawing, in this case broken into three panels; it is an exquisite depiction of the herbivore’s dead head against the ground, blood and berries spilling from her maw and into the soil.

The next page is another full page drawing broken into three panels (though a different configuration of panels). This page is devoted to the stream of blood spilling from the herbivore’s mouth and into the soil. Steve Bissette has spent this issue focusing on the interlocking creatures in the wake of the destruction Mrs. Tyrant caused, placing Tyrant’s Mum at the top of the food chain. All the other creatures in the forest were cowering in the path of destruction caused by one predator’s attack. Now Bissette shifts to focusing on the earth itself, ultimately the origin and end for all these creatures. “The earth itself drinks deeply… Deepest of all.” The next two pages are a single image, broken up into five panels. The drawing is of the soil and roots and trees. The dead herbivore’s feet can be seen at the far left of the page. Bissette describes the insects and fungi growing in the blood drenched soil. He describes the scavengers that will come and pick through the herbivore’s corpse and the maggots that will grow in the carcass. Bissette then shifts, describing the one patch of soil untainted by all this. “It will remain clean…” He writes, “nothing will sully her nest…. Nothing.” Bissette’s return to the repetition of the word “nothing” (in the first issue it was frequently used ironically) creates a sense of foreboding, which seemingly foreshadows issue four, as well as Bissette’s future plans for the issue. He then switches away entirely from the focus on the interconnected forest and describes the egg within this clean mound in deeply scientific terms. No longer is he concerned with the web of forest life, now he sets up the third issue of the series, which details the formation of the forest’s newest creature, Tyrant. “Within, life begins.”

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Harry Edmundson-Cornell is obsessed with comics and film and writing, and he fancies himself a bit of an artist. He's dabbled in freelance video production, writing, design, 3D modelling, and artistic commissions. He mainly uses Tumblr to keep track of what he's watching and reading and listening to. Occasionally he uses it to post original works. You can find his email and junk there too, if you want to hire him or send him hate-mail.

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