Tyrant Issue Four:

Dreams and Bones

Previously we looked at Steve Bissette’s most experimental issue of Tyrant.

The final published issue of Tyrant opens with yet another spectacular nature drawing. Steve Bissette draws the rocky remains of a riverbed, a trickle of water, a nearby forest, and distant mountains, with all his characteristic detail and skill. You can spot the rocks under the water, the plants nestled between rocks, even a handful of mosquitoes flying around. In the mid-ground is the dinosaur known as Eggsucker. Eggsucker, whose typical diet needs no explanation, is trying to eat something. Bissette’s delightful and evocative sound affects float through the page’s only blank space. Steve Bissette does not open this issue with a full-page title, something we saw in issues one and two. This slight change of format is really only interesting because of the small number of issues. As it were, half the issues of Tyrant open this way and the other half don’t. It seems likely we would have seen more variation as the series progressed. At this moment, it’s unclear what Eggsucker is eating.

Page two immediately clarifies this. A tight close up on a turtle, which has retracted inside his shell, dominates the page. Large, savage sound effects cut across most of the page. The next page shows Eggsucker’s struggle a little clearer. Through the narration it becomes clear he’s eaten a turtle before but he didn’t have to get it out of a shell. Eventually Eggsucker worms his tongue inside the shell to: “force its head out.” The turtle sees the tongue, and bites. The next page zooms out again. Eggsucker panics and thrashes around. Steve Bissette’s sound effects still convey an amazing amount of information. Not only do they suggest the sounds Eggsucker is making but they suggest the motions he’s making. The next page shows the turtle swimming away. Weirdly enough this page contains some of the only strict rectangular panels in the comic series. Bissette’s willingness to break free from his normal weirdly-angled habits shows his penchant for experimentation and self-growth. Eggsucker moans in pain before perking up, noticing a “sound.”

The next two pages (page one has two panels, page two has one panel) are phenomenal. Steve Bissette draws Eggsucker running through the forest towards the sound’s source. The detail of the trees is incredible and atmospheric. Eggsucker pauses at some trees near his goal. Bissette manages to make a fairly unexpressive creature appear wonderfully suspicious to the reader. The sound’s source becomes clear. Eggsucker has stopped by the edge of Tyrant’s nest. A plethora of carcasses, replete with detailed rot, bones, and flies surrounds the nest. Eggsucker begins to plan out a silent approach: “amid dreams and bones.” The next page suddenly features the issue’s title page. A mass of shadowed, rotting bones fill the page. The same white text that Bissette used for titles previously rest in the bottom left-hand corner. The title is: “Dreams and Bones.”

The story’s point-of-view then shifts. Tyrant’s Mum stands tall over her nest. She watches two of her infants emerge. She is utterly transfixed. Again Steve Bissette is interested in showing us the motherly side of this savage dinosaur, especially when she notices one of her eggs isn’t hatching. Once she notices this she: “cradles the egg lovingly in her maw.”  Bissette’s interest in motherly nature vs. savage instinct is so wonderfully exemplified in this sentence. The contrast of the terms “cradles” and “lovingly” with “maw” is beautiful in its simplicity. The first two words seem gentle and kind. “Maw,” on the other hand, is a very animalistic word. The point-of-view switches again, this time to the “second hatchling” who manages to wiggle free from an egg, becoming the first hatchling to get free. Eggsucker notices the sounds this hatchling makes and he begins his approach. Tyrant’s Mum doesn’t notice because: “she has other things on her mind and all the world in her mouth.” She works the first egg gently with her tongue, trying to make it hatch. Eggsucker realizes that if Tyrant’s Mum were to move quickly up the nest she might fall and cripple herself in the process. Eggsucker plans to: “use her precious hilltop against her.” This Machiavellian cruelty is a wonderful anthropomorphisation of Eggsucker’s opportunistic tendencies. He runs for the egg. Throughout this series Bissette has continually repeated the word “nothing” for ironic effect. He will write something about how “nothing” could make these animals move from their home and then show them fleeing in the next panel, repeating the word “nothing.” Eggsucker runs knowing: “Nothing can stop him… nothing”; it seems more than a bit ominous.

Eggsucker leaps for the hatchling. The hatchling notices: “a shadow… a shape… a ruddy blur… something wet in her face– –warm, pink.” The cut in Eggsucker’s tongue, harking back to the turtle, becomes his undoing. The hatchling, noticing: “a raw tear in the pink– –livid with the scent of blood,” bites down. Her thoughts grow frantic as she realizes the tongue: “is meat.”  Eggsucker screams in pain. The story ends with the turtle from the beginning, in a beautifully depicted underwater scene, hearing the screams. It’s a colossal shame the last issue of Tyrant ends on cliff-hanger, but there you have it. Bissette has elaborated on his plans for next the issue a little bit. That poor hatchling would’ve been eaten by Eggsucker. As it stands, Tyrant’s last ever page is surprisingly fitting. After reading the caption: “and yet the screams and the dim taste of blood still linger” the readers eyes turn to the last panel. It is a beautiful drawing of a swimming turtle with the caption: “In a moment, all is washed away.” Thus ends Steve Bissette’s Tyrant.

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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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  1. Cody McKee says:

    These articles have been a treat to read, I love this series! I was 12 when the first issue came out, and to say that I was interested in dinosaurs at the time would be a laughable understatement. This book really opened my eyes, as at first the (what I perceived to be) wordiness of it was a little off-putting, but the prospect of the full life of a T-Rex had me intrigued. I still revisit this book from time to time; I always enjoyed the backmatter, especially the examinations and critiques on Jurassic Park. It is indeed a shame that Bissette had to end it. I would pay good money towards a Kickstarter (or similar) campaign to help him at least continue it, even if actually finishing took another fundraiser or two to accomplish.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this analysis!

    • Thank you so much for the kind words Cody! I know Bissette has expessed an interest in finishing it at some point, so I guess time will tell. The backmatter is a blast, that’s exactly why I introduced the series through the letter pages. Bissette’s reviews and recommendations are always fascinating. (I got a chance to watch Bissette recommendations with the man himself, which was even more fun then it sounds.)

      Thanks for taking the time to read this analysis!

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