Monday, November 26, 2012


[DEPARTMENT OF FULL DISCLOSURE: ERF was listed on Kickstarter for quite some time, and since it had Garth Ennis’s name on it, you bet your bottom dollar I donated to this book’s existence. My name is listed among the Friends of Erf on the final two pages of this book. I have never given an unfair review, though, and I’m not about to start now.]

When one thinks of children’s books, Garth Ennis is probably the last writer one would think of. The man who gave us PREACHER, HITMAN, THE BOYS, and easily the best runs on HELLBLAZER and THE DEMON ever could not possibly have a children’s book in him, right?

Well . . . prepare yourself for ERF, which takes place in the time before life started crawling out of the ocean and onto land. It concerns a quartet of friends: Figwillop (the fast one), the Booper (a chameleon), KWAAH! (who can puff up to gigantic proportions), and Erf (who doesn’t seem to have any talents). One day, these four friends discover that they can breathe out of water, and they go up onto land to explore a brand new world. Unfortunately for them, they’ve come to the attention of Colossux, who needs enough energy to swim to the mainland and intends to get that energy by eating these four friends.

After some consideration, Colossux decides that he really needs to eat just one of them, and that he’ll let them decide who the unlucky one will be. Each of Erf’s friends has an excuse as to why they shouldn’t be sacrificed, but Erf is just terrified and sad because he knows that he’s the only expendable one here. Much to his friends’ credit, they don’t bring this up. They decide to sleep on it and decide in the morning. But Erf has other plans . . . .

This book is guaranteed to traumatize children for many generations to come. That’s a good sign of a children’s book, if it can do that. If you have kids, and you read this book to them, you’ll finish your night up trying to calm them down, to get them to stop crying and go to bed. Because Ennis has a very Darwinist way of looking at things, it really comes through cold-bloodedly here. Yet at the same time, there is a great deal of warmth to it, especially if you read to the very end and see just what the great importance of Erf is in the long run.

Ennis has a great feel for humanity, as is illustrated in many of his character interactions. Jesse Custer and Cassidy. Tommy Monaghan and Natt. Even Butcher and Wee Hughie. Despite the awful, horrible circumstances he writes about, he’s got an optimistic view of things, and never is this more evident than it is in ERF. Artist Rob Steen brings it to life in a rather beautiful way, especially as Erf goes to confront Colossux on his own.

Sure, your kids will cry, but they’ll come away from this story better off than they were before.

Written by Garth Ennis
Illustrated by Rob Steen
Published by 2 Badgers and Spitfire Productions
42 pages

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