Vermont-based cartoonist Joseph Lambert’s “I Will Bite You!” collects eight stories, six of them previously published in minicomics or anthologies sometime between 2006 and 2010.
Most of the pieces in the book are two-color, with “Cavemen” as a beautiful, full-color exception. Drawn with generous brushwork, “Cavemen” shows a prehistoric caveman mourning the tragic death of his best friend. It’s a moving, spiritual story about grief and memory — only, you know, with dinosaurs.
Lambert is probably best known for his 2007 36-page mini, “Turtle Keep It Steady,” which was featured in Linda Barry’s 2008 edition of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s “The Best American Comics” series. The wordless story, in which an aviator-shades-wearing turtle drum-solo battles with a hare dressed like a pirate, is every bit as silly and fun and goofy as you would expect. The two animals vie for the attention of a fickle crowd, the tortoise mean-mugging his steady beat as he goes up against the hare’s downward-sloping, rock-and-roll freakout.
Many of Lambert’s comics deal with young kids and their day-to-day melodramas. The two best pieces in the collection, “Mom Said” and “Too Far,” both feature children doing what they do best: getting into trouble. “Mom Said” tells the all-too-familiar story of an older sibling with sudden responsibilities babysitting his younger brothers, watching and realizing that his childhood is slowly falling away from him. “Too Far” is just too good to spoil, but also deals with broken promises and familial obligation.
“I Will Bite You!” serves as an excellent survey of Lambert’s growth and trajectory as an artist. The newer pieces are much richer with emotional and dramatic texture. This doesn’t feel like a best-of compilation. This feels like the beginning of an excellent carrier. The best is yet to come.