Shirtless Bear-Fighter #1
Writer: Jody Leheup & Sebastian Girner
Artist: Nil Vendrell
Colorist: Mike Spencer
Letterer: Dave Lanphear
Publisher: Image Comics
A review by Stacy Dooks
This review is going to be a tough one. On the one hand, I can discuss Shirtless Bear-Fighter in general detail and offer my impressions of the title with a cool and professional veneer. That’s certainly what’s expected of me, and it’s what I want to deliver. But my inner intellectual is locked in mortal combat with my inner 11 year-old, the one who saw Robocop on VHS and all but demanded that I purchase Wolfcop the second it came out on Blu-Ray. You give me an insane concept and I am in like Flynn, wanting nothing more than to grab the nearest person by their lapels and extol the cheesy virtues of these concepts like the fine gorgonzola they are. So it is with Shirtless Bear-Fighter .
Major City is a happening metropolis, but the idyllic peace of this bustling urban sprawl is shattered by a bear attack, a hulking brute beyond the capabilities of animal control, the police, even the army. No, when it all goes down and these ursine thugs have America’s back to the wall, there’s only one man who can answer the call: Shirtless, the eponymous Bear Fighter. Armed with his mighty Bear Punch and quite literally nothing else, he’s the protector the forest deserves. But when the city needs him, can our hero be called out of self-imposed exile to save the day? Is the sudden increase in ursine violence tied to something more sinister waiting in the shadows? Will he ever put on some pants?
Comedy can be a tricky prospect in comics. It’s easy to get mired in self-referential meta-humor that gets too involved with poking fun at the foibles of the medium itself. It’s certainly easier than it is to make a comic book that’s actually, y’know, funny. And that’s exactly what this book is: a funny, over the top action-comedy that’d be right up there with The Maxx or The Head on MTV’s Liquid Television. Jody Leheup, Sebastian Girner, and Nil Vendrell have put together a comic that feels of a piece with that sort of storytelling; it feels equal parts like the first chapter in a comics serial and the half-hour pilot of one of those experimental shows of yesteryear. I don’t know where they’ve been keeping Nil Vendrell, but his art is equal parts epic and hilarious. There are a couple visual effects utilizing a very improbable censor/blur effect, as well as Shirtless’ home and favored mode of transportation that are damn funny. Leheup and Girner put together some of the funniest dialogue I’ve read in a comic for a long time, and it is literally taking everything I have not to spoil some of the book’s lines, they’re that good.
The entire presentation of Shirtless Bear-Fighter, from the writing through the art to the engaging colors by Mike Spencer and the deft lettering by Dave Lanphear, combine for an impressive debut that’s putting a lot of guns on the wall for exploration in later issues. What caused Shirtless to turn his back on the bear community that raised him? What’s the deadly secret of Brother Bear? Can humanity emerge victorious in the War on Bearror? Like all good first issues, the book gives you an entertaining beginning that lives up to the promise of the cover, but leaves enough hanging that you want to stick around and find out more.
Buy It! If you enjoy a good action-comedy that’s heavy on the silly and low on the angst, I highly recommend Shirtless Bear-Fighter. It’s fun, it’s funny, and it’s got a hero that comes equipped with Bear Punch!