The Infidel, Featuring Pigman: More Than You Think, and Makes You Think More

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The Infidel #1

I first became aware of Bosch Fawstin's work when I reviewed TABLE FOR ONE back in 2004. I knew then that I would be seeing the name again, and when the book was nominated for an Eisner Award in 2005, I was proven correct.

It would over a dozen years for our paths to cross again, and during that time Fawstin had made the news by winning the controversial "Draw Mohammed" competition organized by Pamela Gellar and Robert Spencer. If you didn't know he won, it's probably because the more reported moments involved the attack on the event, and the editorializing that accompanied it.

Fawstin's latest work is an impassioned serial called THE INFIDEL, FEATURING PIGMAN. On its face, it seems a jingoistic, puerile response to Islamic terrorism, akin to many comments that circulated shortly after September 11, 2001 about soaking bullets in pig blood or serving bacon on all future flights. Seriously, a comic book about a man who dresses as a pig to go after Islamic extremists?

But that's not what the book is about at all. That's the first and foremost self-imposed hurdle you have to get past in order to better understand THE INFIDEL, so that you can realize it's not only a good series, but an important one as well.

The main character of THE INFIDEL is Killian Duke, a former Muslim and a self-published comic book artist. It's art imitating life, as that is exactly what Fawstin is. PIGMAN, the oft-maligned character people think this series is about, is actually a meta-comic; it's the book that Duke publishes, and is the instigation of many of his tribulations. His anti-Muslim stance was born on 9-11, when he renounced the faith and uses his deep knowledge of it to combat jihad with pen and ink.

If even that were all the book was about, it might be seen as sententious and pedantic -- and in truth, it does get dialogue-heavy in places. But there's a foil to Duke's character: his twin brother, Salaam Duka. Duka also had an epiphany on 9-11. But unlike his brother, his rebirth took him deeper into Islamic extremism and jihad. And by the time the brothers clash in the third issue, things take a turn for the series that will viscerally invest the reader into following the saga to its conclusion.

Yes, you do see Pigman throughout the book. His function, superficially, is a propaganda character; he's what Captain America was in World War II and, disappointingly, was not in 2002. As THE INFIDEL progresses, Pigman's adventures reflect bits and pieces of what is happening in Killian's personal life, as he gets confrontational with Islamists in the streets, faces courtroom challenges, and is ultimately assaulted by extremists who want to silence him.

THE INFIDEL is a bold attack that challenges the reader to question any prior assumptions might have about Islam, and also serves as a catharsis for those who remember the events of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. One wonders how THE INFIDEL might have fared had it been published much closer to those fateful days, rather than over a decade and a half later.

Grade: 
4.5 / 5.0