Shirtless Bear-Fighter! #3 features a betrayal, a revelation, and plenty of bear punches. Is it good?
This is a solid issue on all counts, both narratively and artistically. Writers Jody LeHeup and Sebastian Girner deliver some of the series’ most emotional and shocking moments here. After the last two issues’ hints at what happened to Shirtless’ ex-lover, the truth is revealed, and there are twists to the story that I never saw coming. Another twist comes in the form of a major character’s betrayal. Perhaps one of the best things I can say about this issue’s plot developments is that I never could have predicted them. Of course, it’s nice to get what I came for (a shirtless dude punching bears), but I’m glad this issue provided more than just what it says on the tin.
This issue also has what is probably the best art of the series thus far. Penciller Nil Vendrell Pallach and colorist Michael Spicer’s styles work very well together. Pallach renders the characters with both amusing and endearing facial expressions, and the fight scenes are both dynamic and enjoyably hammy. Spicer’s work really bring the comic’s world to life, and the bright colors throughout exude fun and happiness.
My favorite portion of the issue is its final three pages. Without spoiling anything plot-wise, I’ll simply say that it is a legitimately emotionally impactful scene, which I never expected to get in this series. Those last pages contain almost no words, and are a great demonstration of Pallach and Spicer’s visual storytelling skills. The entire second half of the issue is engaging, and the momentum builds and builds until the satisfying climax.
One of my main cons with this issue is its beginning. The first half, though not bad, took a bit too long to grab me. This was partially due to it containing most of the issue’s content that felt like “filler.” The first scene was a flashback that, while beautifully drawn, was not really connected to the present day narrative. Hopefully it will be referenced later on, but in terms of this standalone issue it feels insignificant. There’s also some ineffective toilet humor in the issue’s first half. I’m not trying to sound prudish by any means, but the specific jokes used just feel too obvious. This creative team is capable of pulling off some really creative gags, so it’s a bit disappointing when certain punch lines don’t feel as fresh.
With that said, Shirtless Bear-Fighter! #3 is a very well-done issue. The art team does fantastic work throughout, especially in the final scene. The narrative gets off to a slow start, but once thing’s get going, the momentum never stops. If the next two issues can match this one’s intensity and emotional resonance, then this will be quite the miniseries to remember.