cover image The Cloven: Book One

The Cloven: Book One

Garth Stein and Matthew Southworth. Fantagraphics, $22.99 (120p) ISBN 978-1-68396-310-3

Stein (The Art of Racing in the Rain) and Southworth (the Stumptown series) team up for an oddball mash-up of science fiction, horror, action, and coming-of-age story. James “Tuck” Tucker has a secret: he is one of the Cloven, genetically modified goat-people, and under his baggy pants he has legs like a satyr. Escaping the lab where Cloven were developed, Tuck goes on the lam and finds fellow Cloven escapees living underground, with their own rituals and culture. The narrative flashes back and forth between Tuck’s life on the run and the development of the Cloven Project. The bold, chunky art boasts a strong Frank Miller influence and gets better as the volume unfolds, engaging in bravura action sequences and daring pops of color. Both the artist and writer commit to selling a fundamentally silly premise as serious speculative fiction; it’s hard to tell if it’s supposed to be funny when Tuck grimly explains “I have the legs and digestive tract of a goat,” or when the Cloven butt heads and go “romping” to celebrate their heritage, or a scientist learns that the goat-people were created to be supersoldiers and gasps, “The Cloven Project isn’t to try to end world hunger?” But such flashes of unashamed goofiness give the story an offbeat charm. This unusual collaboration stands out from the crowd of similar superpowered mutants bucking the system. [em](July) [/em]