The comic book landscape is full of heroes, from gods to mutants to ordinary Joes who fight evil with their bare hands. In the tradition of bare-knuckle brawlers, Image introduces a new force to be reckoned with in Shirtless Bear-Fighter! #1. Is it good?
Writer: Jody LeHeup, Sebastian Girner
Artist: Nil Vendrell Pallach
Publisher: Image Comics
This is one of the most ridiculous comic books I’ve read in a long time, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The series’ title and covers indicate over-the-top man versus bear action, and that’s exactly what the debut issue delivers. Writers Jody LeHeup and Sebastian Girner don’t play any aspect of the concept seriously, and the comic is better off for it. Narratively, this issue utilizes a lot of classic action and suspense movie tropes, and for the most part it does so effectively with very tongue-in-cheek delivery.
The issue begins with a city being attacked by a gigantic bear, and then cuts to a man and woman flirting alone until they hear strange noises. It’s a familiar setup, and interrupted by exactly what you’d expect in this comic: another giant bear attack. It’s here that the protagonist makes his debut. Naked, built, and bearded, the Shirtless Bear-Fighter embodies several action movie star clichés, and does so hilariously.
The action scenes in this issue are a lot of fun. Artist Nil Vendrell Pallach’s bears are menacing, and his use of motion lines is a lot of fun. His backgrounds are also well-drawn, and his rendering of the Shirtless Bear-Fighter’s bear-house is delightfully demented. Colorist Michael Spicer does a great job as well, utilizing beautiful cool tones for the nature scenes and warmer colors for the battle-based panels. Other enjoyable aspects of the issue include a squad of bickering government agents, as well as a duo of villains who end the issue with an amusing scene of toasting drinks and declaring that the Shirtless Bear-Fighter is doomed.
The main flaw I could see one arguing about this issue is that some of its jokes and plot developments are too obvious. Granted, I think that most of the clichés here are used effectively, with a camp sensibility that helps make the predictable aspects of the story more fun than tedious. However, there are some jokes and plot developments that don’t land quite as well. The few scenes where the jokes feel obvious but not as bombastically executed detract from the issue’s quality a little bit, but not by much. Overall, Shirtless Bear-Fighter! #1 is a great time. It’s exactly what it says on the tin, and that’s not a bad thing.