Review - Shirtless Bear-Fighter #1 (@ImageComics)

Venturing in the woods means you may encounter some wildlife. Deer, rabbits and chipmunks are the nicer ones you can encounter, but sometimes you'll come across a bear. Punching it in the face is rarely a good idea, but if you're the Shirtless Bear-Fighter #1 from Image Comics, it's all you know. The issue is written by Jody Leheup and Sebastian Girner, illustrated by Nil Vendrell Pallach, colored by Michael Spicer and lettered by Dave Lanphear.

After being betrayed by the bears that raised him, the legendary Shirtless Bear-Fighter wanders the forest he’s sworn to protect, fistfighting bears, eating flapjacks, and being the angriest man the world has ever known! When wild-eyed, super-strong bears attack the citizens of Major City, Shirtless ventures into the human world to do what he does best...PUNCH THOSE BEARS IN THE FACE! But all is not as it seems. Someone is manipulating Shirtless...and only by confronting the demons of his past can Shirtless hope to save his future!

Full credit to Leheup and Girner--they know that the idea of a naked man fighting bears is outlandish. Despite knowing this, the way the writers embrace it is amazing and works exceptionally well thanks to the lead character whose singular focus is fighting bears. The issue plays out with a Jungle Book type of origin story that serves to introduce the reader to Shirtless Bear-Fighter as a smaller part of the larger story where bears are attacking cities. And the narrative is some simple and creative that even the characters seem aware of the madness, emphasizing an awareness of some common action-adventure tropes. The dialogue by Leheup and Girner is thoroughly entertaining in its simplicity, offering amusing jokes and witty retorts.

Pallach's artwork is cartoonish enough that Shirtless Bear-Fighter #1 definitely won't be taken too seriously. The linework is very crisp and simplistic, emphasizing the pure weapon against bears that the Shirtless Bear-Fighter is. All of Pallach's illustrations have a very sharp, angular feel to them that give the book a clean look. The panel layouts further the cleanliness of the art as Pallach presents the action in a formal, grid layout that's easy to follow along with. Spicer's colors are basic, yet still manage to infuse the story with browns and greens that reinforce the nature aspect of the story.

If the title didn't give it away, Shirtless Bear-Fighter #1 is every bit as bananas as you would think. Shirtless Bear-Fighter has a singular focus to fight all bears with a fiery hatred that will surely be explained down the road. The story by Leheup and Girner is breezy and simple in its approach, relying on the outlandishness of the scenario to great effect. Pallach's illustrations are just as straightforward and the reader gets lost in the inky black of Shirtless Bear-Fighter's deep black beard. Shirtless Bear-Fighter #1 is a lot of fun without getting caught up in excessive drama.

Shirtless Bear-Fighter #1 is available June 21.