The Puma Blues: The Complete Saga in One Volume

The Puma Blues: The Complete Saga in One Volume
The Puma Blues review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Dover Publications - 978-0-48679-813-4
  • Release date: 2015
  • Format: Black and white
  • UPC: 9780486798134
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

The Puma Blues is strangely compelling, a so-slowly unfolding eco-fable. How it became a helpless hostage and collateral casualty in Dave Sim’s lengthy battle with an international distributor determined to dictate how creators did business is related here in painful, sordid detail in Sim’s introduction. An impressive archival edition comes complete with his equally stunning pin-up of the series’ iconic signature invention.

This monolithic monochrome tome gathers every published issue of The Puma Blues comic except the non-canonical benefit issue rushed out in solidarity by incensed fellow creators to generate publicity, support and funds. It then, after almost a quarter century, reunites writer Stephen Murphy and artist Michael Zulli to finally complete their story.

Marrying the escalating ecological concerns of the 1980s and tropes of science fictive paranoia with torturous soul-searching and the eternal quest for place in both family and the world, The Puma Blues is more about the Why and How of things rather than the usual Who and What of plot and character. The abiding undercurrent is an inexorable slide to tragic, unfixable, unwanted change.

The focus is 2000 AD and government agent Gavia Immer (look it up, they’re being very clever), who monitors changes to flora and fauna in a Massachusetts wilderness reserve on behalf of the US military. Still a beautiful, idyllic landscape dominated by ancient apex predators like mountain lions, despite perpetual acid rains, ozone layer breaches and radioactive toxins left after white supremacists nuked the Bronx, the harsh area monitored by the solitary researcher is the site of some radical changes. Gavia’s job is not simply clerical. He periodically tests fluctuating PH levels of the lake in between the state’s continual chemical readjustments of the body of water. Whenever he discovers a mutant species – either “animute” or “biomute” – he has to utilise state-of-the-art technology to instantaneously ship specimens to a US-Sino laboratory somewhere in China.

Gavia’s only contact with the rest of humanity is his TV screen. It delivers reports, interviews and pep talks from his superiors and he talks with his mother, allowing the solitary agent plenty of time to brood about his father’s death and their unresolved issues. Is Gavia imagining it or is he actually gradually divining some inner cosmic revelation from his dad’s tapes and theories?

There’s certainly plenty of room for new answers: the growing dominance of flying mantas is clearly no longer a secret and as animals old and new jostle and tussle to find their niche in the new world order, Gavia sinks further into his father’s videotaped philosophies until he has his revelation. He takes off into the heart of America to find out how and why things are falling apart.

Proffering an increasingly strong but never strident message of environmental duty and responsibility, The Puma Blues outlines its arguments and questions as a staggeringly beautiful and compelling mystery play.

Before it was squeezed out of existence the saga was collected as two trade paperbacks, Watch That Man and Sense of Doubt, but this monumental hardback (also and preferentially available in an eco-sustainable digital edition) belatedly completes the story. It’s followed by a passionate defence and valiant elegiac testimony in ‘Acts of Faith: a Coda’ by devoted fan and occasional contributor Stephen R. Bissette.

Haunting, chilling, beguiling, intensely imposing and never more timely than now, this is a massive accomplishment and enduring triumph in comics narrative. Read it now, before we’re all too busy treading burning water.