Lo and recall a time when the American beerscape was but a wasteland. A time when the evil king and his court of mediocrity ruled the sullen land without a challenger. Before another rose up in the Heartland. Alpha King #1 is the gruesome story of that other’s transformation from brewer to warrior and how the old king in fact created his worst enemy. Is it good?
Alpha King #1 (Image Comics)
Alpha King #1 opens with the titular ruler ready to storm the ramparts of the old king’s castle, along with a horde of creatures ripped straight from the labels of 3 Floyds beer bottles. It’s not the first time comics have crossed paths with the isolationist Indiana brewery, as Grayson and Hack/Slash artist Time Seeley drew the label for their Zombie Dust pale ale, but this four-issue mini-series by the superstar creative team of Brian Azzarello and Simon Bisley does mark the earnest beginning of what might be an interconnected 3 Floyds universe.
Although there’s not much that’s earnest about Alpha King #1 or the post-apocalyptic, grimly medieval world in which it’s set. Azzarello isn’t out to tug at heartstrings or tell us something about the human condition. This is a genre piece told with a wink and a nod to both pop and beer cultures. The birth of our hero will give flashbacks to Jack Nicholson’s Joker, and the allegorical villains, while menacing, could be Easter eggs that people not invested in the micro vs. macro conflict won’t pick up on.
So to be as brutally blunt as the book itself is, Alpha King #1 is not for everyone. It’s a comic by beer fans, for beer fans, and to hell with you if you’re not interested–so in a way, it’s not unlike the craft beer movement itself. The subject matter and the involvement of brewmaster Nick Floyd might remind some of, say, the Masters of the Universe comics and TV show produced for the sole purpose of hawking a toy line, but there’s more to it than that. To the initiated, Alpha King reads like a celebration of all things geekily rebellious, more reminiscent of Conan the Barbarian and Heavy Metal magazine. When the homebrewer-turned-champion slaughters his first band of bike-riding, zombie marauders, you can almost hear the Dethklok playing in the background as heads hit the floor.
Artist Simon Bisley capably evokes the fantasy revenge quest theme, bringing vibrant life to the diverse cast of unusual characters. Colorist Ryan Brown adds just the right touches to make the larger-than-life combatants stand out from the bleak worlds that surround them. Conversely, the art that focuses on the mild-mannered protagonist in his garage leaves something to be desired–casual conversations about recipes are not what this book was made for.
Is It Good?
Alpha King #1 embraces the fun of beer while overloading on crunchy action the same way 3 Floyds overloads on ingredients. Both the brewery and the comic make no apologies for being outrageous and indulgent, so for many, it’ll be a match made in Hop Heaven. But it’s probably inessential for those whose cranks aren’t turned by the idea of intra-industry conflict told through a Game of Thrones-style lens.