Title: Shirtless Bear Fighter #1
Publisher: Image Comics
Creators: Leheup, Girner, Vendrell, Spicer, Lanphear
Release Date: June 21, 2017
*Review copy provided by Image Comics
Time and again, Image Comics puts out work that surprises and impresses, either from sheer awesomeness, like Tokyo Ghost and Paper Girls, or utter ridiculousness, like Citizen Jack and Kaptara. The upcoming comic Shirtless Bear Fighter falls into the latter category, and it’s more than worth its weight in flapjacks and pure, uncut maple syrup. If you’re on the fence about this one, then please, hop over into the forest where Shirtless lives (yes, that’s his name) and immerse yourself in the action-parody greatness that is Shirtless Bear Fighter #1.
The Nerd Stash recently put up a small feature about this upcoming comic because, from the get-go, it was obvious that this was something to watch. Not exactly sure how it would play out, we can all now be very satisfied that the creators decided to go the way of action-parody. Shirtless Bear Fighter #1 is equal parts Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Kung-Fury, and Grizzly Adams. It all adds up to a great romp through the woods (and the city!) that’s sure to satisfy fans of action, and also people who like to make fun of the now-outrageous genre tropes we’ve come to love.
This first issue featuring our hero, Shirtless (can you believe that’s his name?!) starts off so strong. What we have here is the classic scenario of “recruit the retired pro.” We’ve seen this in tons of action films throughout the past few decades, and while it’s definitely run its course and turned into something laughable, much like the rest of the tropes of the big ’80s action blockbusters, writers Jody LeHeup and Sebastian Girner breathe some refreshing life into the scenes. It’s a comic that is very aware of itself as a parody, and that’s really the only way it would have worked. If we instead got something that was trying to be overly serious, it would fail hard, but knowing that the creators are in on the jokes makes it a huge success.
Basically, bears have come out of the woods and into Major City, and the government needs the Shirtless Bear Fighter to come and punch all those bears in the face. The exchanges between the government agents and Shirtless are written so wonderfully. The writers never miss a chance to throw in a joke, and nothing is sacred. Except maybe flapjacks (do not call them pancakes). And the glimpses we get into Shirtless’ past are as welcomely insane as the rest of the storyline. We get hints as to who’s behind the bear malevolence in Major City and who might have a grudge against Shirtless, and we also get to see little-bearded baby Shirtless.
The art is fantastic. The artist, colorist, letterer trio for Shirtless Bear Fighter, Pallach, Spicer, and Lanphear, are pulling no bear-punches. Shirtless is drawn wonderfully as a near-maniacal naked lumberjack. Yes, he’s also naked for nearly all of this first issue, so be forewarned. It’s all very… anatomically correct. He comes off as very imposing as well, so while the Bears tower over him, he still reads as an equal on the page. This is only made all the more real when Shirtless suplexes a bear in the opening scenes. It’s something to behold.
Artistically, there’s nothing stale about any of the pages in Shirtless Bear Fighter #1. I’ve reviewed some comics in the past where I’ve been in love with the story, but ultimately felt that the art was doing something different, which is not the case here. The exaggerated angular structure of the anatomy, the vibrant coloration, the big, bold lettering for all the action sounds—it’s all in-line with the heart of the story being told.
From what I’ve seen on the Image Comics site, it looks like what we’ll be seeing with Shirtless Bear Fighter is a 5 issue run. That seems to be kind of perfect at the moment, because while I literally have zero complaints about issue #1, who’s to tell if the comedy can last longer than that? Not that there aren’t a wealth of action tropes for the writers to draw on for inspiration, but a 20-issue run built solely on parody might not hold up over time. There’s also something to be said for small comic runs in terms of closure and collecting. It’s much easier, and sometimes much more satisfying, to have a small print collection of a comic, whether you’re collecting the single issues or waiting for one or two volumes to put on your shelf. It’s much easier to revisit that contained story later on rather than some sprawling, winding narrative.
You can count on us following the rest of the epic Shirtless Bear Fighter story, so keep tabs on The Nerd Stash for future news and reviews.
Verdict: If you love over-the-top action mixed with ridiculousness, Shirtless Bear Fighter is a comic that you cannot pass up.
- Well written
- Great artwork
- None whatsoever.
Cody Maynard is a writer living in central Ohio. When he’s not at work managing a local mountaineering store, he’s usually playing Bloodborne, reading comics, and brewing beer.