The Big Sheep: A Farm Noir
Written by: Andre Mateus
Art by: Rahil Mohsin
Published by: VMComics

Reviewed by: Ryan McLelland

Any comic that makes me immediately nostalgic for my early comic reading days is a good thing. After the release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the 80s it seemed like every independent publisher was jumping onto the anthropomorphic animal comic book craze. There was the immediate Turtle ripoffs like Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters but also more adult fare like Xanadu, Omaha the Cat Dancer, and Critters. Now this isn’t to say that anthropomorphic animals weren’t around before TMNT, but they just grew more popular once the Turtle Craze started.

The Big Sheep really reminds me of a story that would have been featured in Fantagraphics awesome anthology Critters. It really has the same sort of attitude, look, and feel of those old Critters stories. The Big Sheep features a turtle private detective named Slow Spade (a play on Dashiell Hammett’s classic character Sam Spade. You know – from The Maltese Falcon. You know – the one that was adapted into a movie starring Humphrey Bogart. If you don’t know any of this, you truly make me sad.) looking for his next case.

Slow’s past comes back to haunt him when he walks into his office and his beautiful sheep ex-girlfriend Linda is there. Slow has never gotten past Linda leaving him and seeing her in his office is shocking. Linda isn’t there to have another go at the relationship as she has since gotten married. She’s there to hire Slow. It seems that Linda’s stepdaughter has been kidnapped and she wants Slow to find her.

Slow really doesn’t want to take the case but he’s broke. So onward he goes. His first hurdle comes about when he runs right into a rival of his, a PI named Mad Dog Marlowe, who was hired by Linda’s husband. Now Slow has to try to figure out the case with this other detective that he truly doesn’t care for. At first Mad Dog seems like he might be a  hinderance but with his help, Slow starts to put the pieces of the crime together. Find the clues, deduce, bring everyone together, and reveal the culprit. It’s classic pulp mystery storytelling at it finest.

I wasn’t too invested in the actual crime though I will admit I love how the story wrapped up.  What I was truly invested in was Slow Spade and his motivations. I really dug the character, his attitude, and his entire look. If they make comics like this in 2017 I just don’t see them. It’s a shame because I loved The Big Sheep. There’s just something I love about indie anthropomorphic animal comics. Call me old fashioned. Call it great storytelling. Whatever it is I just loved reading this comic.

If I have any complaints it is the story is very short. The book clocks in at only 16 pages so by the time you start getting into it suddenly it is time to reveal the culprit and end the book. I honestly would have preferred two Slow Spade stories to make the issue longer but that is just a personal preference. It doesn’t take away from the actual Big Sheep story. Beyond the shortness of the story I really have no other negative thoughts. I thought the story by Andre Mateus was fun and the artwork by Rahil Mohsin was pretty great. Honestly I think the duo should send this to Stan Sakai to see if he would run it as a back up in some issues of Usagi Yojimbo, like indie creators used to do back in the day. The Big Sheep deserves that as it is a tale everyone should seek out and read. Especially if you loved those fuzzy animal comics from the eighties.

RATING: A-

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