To say that comics were “excessive” during the 90s would be an understatement. Full of whacked out storylines, hyper-sexualized heroines and cash-grab variant covers there’s a lot of shame to go around. That’s not to say that all 90s comics are without merit, though. It was also an era that gave us a new wave of alternative publishers whose output of indie comics often went overlooked and under-appreciated. Many of those titles are now out-of-print, such was the fate of OINK: Heaven’s Butcher – or so I thought – when first laying eyes on its painted cover online.
After a little digging, however, it seems that OINK has gotten a second lease on life thanks to its creator, John Mueller, who’s currently hard at work on not only a Digitally Remastered version of the book but also just released digital “Prestige Editions” of the original three issues. This is the first time in 15 years that these issues have been available, apart from the long out-of-print trade paperback and featuring “newly photographed and color corrected” pages PLUS “new lettering.” It’s basically like sharpening this anthropomorphic pig’s rusty ole’ meat cleaver before he gets upgraded to a shiny new chainsaw.
OINK takes the Orwellian backdrop of Heaven, an oppressive church-state where pigs are crossbred with humans to serve as second class denizens – or worse. As the story opens with our “hero,” OINK locked in a cell awaiting his inevitable execution. When a young preacher arrives to take OINK’s confession, the pig decides to tell the story of how he ended up in this situation. The rest of the narrative is essentially a flashback that spans OINK’s path of destruction, seeking to rise above of the hypocrisy of establishment and avenge the death of his friend/mentor, Spigot.
As a writer Mueller’s script can be a little ham-fisted (see what I did there?), but a more optimistic view is that it’s just more offbeat which is typical of an alternative comic. He successfully manages to capture the bleak dystopia that his characters exist in, defining this less as a hero’s quest and more about a personal vendetta. Mueller also gives us some really great character development for OINK, taking him from the drove of pig slaves and transforming him into a full on anarchist by issue’s end.
As an artist, Mueller’s work is absolutely stunning. Since the book is fully painted, each panel is like it’s own work of art (some more than others). Even the simplest scenes, such as OINK grieving over the loss of Spigot, looks amazing. Of course, the highlight of this issue for me is when Mueller cuts loose with an abstract dream sequence that OINK has about midway through. It stands in stark contrast to the quasi-realism of the rest of the issue and captures the more horrific theme of the book.
OVERALL REVIEW: 4.5/5 – REALLY GOOD
As the first book in this mini-series, OINK: Heaven’s Butcher #1 is pretty accessible and full of raw creativity. Readers looking for something different from the mainstream will not be disappointed and while the writing may not be the book’s biggest stength, it’s clear that OINK is most entertaining when the title character is in full “butcher mode.”
All three issues are currently available for digital download online at the Big Pig Ink shop. Best of all, OINK is 100% creator-owned which means that all profits from these issues go directly to the artist and help to fund the inevitable Remastered edition.