The third issue of Steve Bissette’s Tyrant is devoid of any title, which is odd. Every other issue opened with a strong title page. Perhaps Bissette wanted to distance this issue from the others, as it does take place in a fairly divorced world. Maybe he just got tired of the previous format, as issue four plays with the title page as well. For whatever the reason, this issue opens with a drawing of an egg as opposed to a title. The egg is underground and is recognizable as the egg from the last panel of issue two, just older and bigger. There is a mass of text above the egg. In this issue, Bissette’s narration becomes especially scientific; most of this issue’s narration is devoted to describing the physiological changes occurring throughout the egg and embryo. The first block of the text describes the delicate nature of the egg’s gas exchange system, saying any change in the process could kill the embryo. Continuing with this idea the next page has three depictions, each closer than the last, of the egg’s physical structure. Bissette describes the pores that riddle the egg’s skin, explaining their role in the formation of the embryo.
Steve Bissette’s first drawing of what will be his protagonist is a “tiny disc of protoplasm,” which looks like a bloody spot in the cross-section of the egg. His next two drawings focus on the folding matter and the beginnings of Tyrant’s spine. Next, Bissette’s phenomenal line work creates three drawings of the bulbous, fleshy, moist embryo. Currently it is barely recognizable has a living thing; it has yet to take real form. Its veins and brain, its optic system and heart, its lenses and ears all form. Tyrant’s embryo begins circulating blood. Bissette then breaks from his scientific style a little bit. He chooses to show the embryo in relation to the egg. Tyrant is still dwarfed by his massive, contained world. “In a vast sea of food and blood, the secret swimmer grows.” Bissette seems intent on engrossing us in the scientific process behind Tyrant’s hatching, but he tries to do it in the most emotional way possible. This is a hard line to straddle, especially when the issue’s subject matter is difficult to relate to. This issue really betrays Bissette’s willingness to experiment, and it is hard not to wonder what other experiments we might have seen in the future had the series continued.
Tyrant slowly begins to resemble a living thing, over a detailed double-page spread with angular, intersecting panels. The wonderful sense of the tactile Steve Bissette can create is on show here. You can see the layers of the embryo’s flesh, the smooth, translucent exterior and the delicate flesh; you can see the feeble eyes and the egg’s liquid; and each have their own texture. Bissette’s language continues to mix scientific and emotional or evocative language over the next few pages. He mixes scientific terms with powerful descriptors like “pasty”, “tentative”, and “rhythmically”. The effect is fairly successful. The issue never feels like a scientific text, even though it almost is. At no point does Bissette lose that emotional core. The fetus continues to grow. If you’ve ever seen a very young bird that has fallen from its nest, you can picture Tyrant now. It seems likely most of this issue’s science is a mixture of guesswork made using bird and reptile eggs has a starting point. Given that chickens are the closest living relative the T-Rex, this bird-like Tyrant is probably hugely accurate. Tyrant’s environmental factors then decide his sex (male), just like it does for most reptiles. The next page is a series of close-up shots of Tyrant’s limbs and head. Anyone who has seen photos of human fetuses can attest to Steve Bissette’s spectacularly accurate art over these pages. Fetus-Tyrant is covered in veins; he has massive blank eyes, smooth unformed limbs, and delicate flesh. Having seen photos of fetuses, it is hard not to immediately imagine the colours Tyrant would be at this point, that’s how effective Bissette’s art is.
Steve Bissette then shows us, once again, Tyrant in relationship to the egg. Tyrant is now scaled, more resembling an infant alligator then a fetus. He is also much larger than before, in fact he’s almost the size of the egg. “Coiled in its shrinking world” Bissette writes, conjuring up the early instinctual claustrophobia that will lead to Tyrant hatching. Tyrant then, naturally, gets bigger. “As its universe becomes impossibly small, the fetus begins to move.” In a series of close-ups, Tyrant, now equipped with a small horn for the hatching process, begins to break from his egg. Upon turning the page, the reader is struck with a phenomenal change of pace. Bissette draws Tyrant’s Mum running towards her eggs. Tyrant’s panels, still depicting his struggle, float in the black cross-section of the soil. Freeing the reader from the claustrophobia of the egg before Tyrant hatches is an interesting choice; he tries to counteract this effect by placing the panels with Tyrant in darkness. That helps, but it doesn’t solve the problem. The reader is freed now, and waiting for Tyrant to catch up. It still works, but having the reader’s release coincide with Tyrant’s might have been more effective. Bissette then draws Tyrant’s Mum scratching at the soil, until she frees the hatched Tyrant from the soil. Here strikes one of the largest unanswered questions this series poses. The final page of this issue shows Tyrant’s Mum standing over her newly hatched child. And Tyrant appears to speak. The word “hngry” appears in a disembodied word balloon. The many questions this raises are best left for a latter article. The story of the egg-hatching has yet to end.