Reading Pile: Sabertooth Swordsman HC
I'm about a good eight years late on this, but I don't really recall people talking much about it over the past few years so it doesn't hurt to spotlight again. There was a second edition with a nice new cover and extra stories released back in 2017, so you can still hunt it down easily enough. My edition is lacking that extra material, but I think I do like the overall design of the package a bit more. Also, yes, I've been sitting on this one in my 'to be read' pile for a good while. That pile is both glorious and terrible, for it's less of a pile and more of mountain. But I digress.
Sabertooth Swordsman is bizarre action adventure piece that follows a sad sack farmer seeking strength and powers from the unfathomable Cloud God atop Sasquatch Mountain. After our hero braves the climb and is magically transformed into the title character, we're then treated to a meandering journey as the Swordsman seeks to save his wife from the clutches of the Mastodon Mathematician.
The momentum of the entire project is the premise, action, and artwork as the plot is fairly thin. In truth, the entire motivation for the adventure is a little hollow as the Swordsman's wife, Jolene, is barely given much character to work with. It feels as if creators Gentry and Conley were just checking off a cliché to get the story going, which y'know, is fine. I'm not really here for the story, I'm here more for the Dave Cooper-ish art.
It's a wonderful mashup of psychedelic weirdness and highly detailed action that is both engaging and off putting at times. Much like Dave Cooper's work, you're often confronted with squishy organic scenery or bodily functions that are interesting to look at and also make you feel a bit dirty. It also feels like there's some of Troy Nixey's influence on Conley's work as there's a subplot of a strange plague that's slowly mutating the population. It all has a strange sense of beauty in grotesquery that only a few artists can really pull off well.
Where the book really excels is in effortlessly and casually creating a fully populated mythical world of strange creatures and monsters for the Swordsman to explore and confront. From hallucinations of grasshopper sultans to cyclops luche libre and to an army of goat spirits, there's no shortage of really cool monster visuals.
Story and script wise I would say it's a fairly quick read, and as I said there's not much happening with the characters and plot. The adventure stumbles from one confrontation to another and things are resolved as you would mostly expect for the adventures to continue down the road. The longevity of the book for me is the appeal of the artwork and how it makes your eye linger on the page.
If you're in the mood to explore new art that also manages to capture some of that late 90's/early aughts indy comic scene energy then you should make it a point to hunt down a copy. Or if you wanted the same kind of cartoony nightmare juice from properties such as Cuphead then this will probably speak to you as well. Either way you get to see a magical tiger man kill a lot of people and monsters, so all good.