War Bears from Dark Horse Comics had so much potential. Written by Margaret Atwood of The Handmaid’s Tale fame, the short series was about how World War II and American comic books affected the Canadian comic book industry. The series paid lip service to the things it claimed to be about, but ultimately failed at addressing anything.
The problem throughout the entire series has been Atwood’s writing, and sadly, War Bears #3 is no different. This time the problem is the issue’s poor pacing — the story is way too rushed. Issue #3 begins at the end of World War II and from there the rest of the issue just seems to go through the motions. Instead of building an interesting conclusion, the book just is a series of events that are supposed to lead to a satisfying finale.
Unfortunately, three issues is not enough time to build the sort of connection Atwood was looking for. War Bears #3 amounts to a series of proclamations that end up meaning nothing. The company is sold, someone is getting married, another person turns out to be gay, and in the end we revisit one of the characters in 2009. There is no attachment to any of the characters, making the issue seem as much like a one shot as it was the last part of a series.
Atwood’s writing is just as heavy handed in the final issue of War Bears, but this issue does so in rapid fire succession regarding social issues. Along with the aforementioned sudden homosexuality, the book touches on women’s empowerment, racism, and xenophobia. It is impossible for any of it to mean anything, though, since each issue only gets a page or two devoted to it. This makes the book come off as unfocused and makes for an unenjoyable read.
Over the course of its entire run, the one saving grace of War Bears has been the period-appropriate art of Ken Steacy. Steacy’s art once again does an excellent job of capturing the look and feel of the era. It seems a little more detailed than in previous issues — before, it seemed as if the premium was on capturing a time, while the third issue seems more focused on telling readers about its characters. In particular, there are some magnificently drawn panels of Al wondering what the future of Oursonette will be.
War Bears #3 does have a more rushed look than either of the previous two issues. Once again, it appears as if the pacing of the story is at fault. It’s almost as if Steacy never really had a chance to get a proper grasp of the issue. Characters sometimes look frumpled and out of sorts and while there are some fantastic panels with Al and Gloria, there are other scenes that seem to use shadows in place of actual art. This may be intentional to convey the rushed sense in the story; this seems unlikely though, since the story is not meant to be moving at a whirlwind pace. It’s just written with no sense of structure.
War Bears #3 is a haphazard ending to an overall meaningless series. The last issue covers a series of topics that leave little impact before finally ending. It is unfortunate that a story with so much promise chose to do absolutely nothing with any of its interesting ideas.