Indie Comics Spotlight – Shirtless Bear-Fighter #1, Joe Golem Occult Detective: The Outer Dark #1, Rapture #1


By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Shirtless Bear-Fighter #1

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, fist fighting 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.

Joe Golem Occult Detective: The Outer Dark #1

Dealing with the occult requires a special type of person. Joe Golem is such a person and his experience in dealing with things that are supernatural and out of this world. In Joe Golem Occult Detective: The Outer Dark #1 from Dark Horse Comics, Joe Golem’s latest case might be a bit different than he’s used to. The issue is written by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden, illustrated by Patric Reynolds, and colored by Dave Stewart.

Two years after he killed a child-snatching monster and stopped an undead takeover in the Drowning City, occult detective Joe Golem searches for a man with superhuman strength who is attacking citizens under orders from the otherworldly voices in his head. But Joe has his own demons to wrestle with…

Mignola and Golden always tend to make entries in the Joe Golem series a heady mix of macabre and noir and Joe Golem Occult Detective: The Outer Dark #1 is no exception. The writing duo spend most of the issue building up slowly to the focus of the series which is Joe Golem dealing with a mysterious character with a brutal savagery at his beck and call. The issue is paced in such a way that the reader is shown methodically what’s happening and the tension simmers in a way that matches the overall atmosphere of the book. Mignola and Golden infuse the characters with very clear motivations that interact with one another in ways that are fascinating. As a character, Joe Golem has always had a penchant for dealing with the unknown and Mignola and Golden know this as well.

Reynolds’ artwork is chilling in a nostalgic way. His style is somewhere between watercolors and painted art, all of which comes together in a way that leaves some of the details of the monsters purposefully vague. Reynolds takes something of a “bump in the night” approach in that the artwork is ambiguous at points in a way that asks the reader’s imagination to fill in the gaps. The Drowning City is rendered in a way that lends itself well to the city’s description and reinforces the generally morose tone of the characters and story. Stewart’s colors further this depressed sense of visuals and relies on a mix of grays and browns for great effect.

Joe Golem Occult Detective: The Outer Dark #1 is another haunting entry in the Joe Golem series that draws upon the character’s encounters with generally haunting situations. Joe Golem is dealing with something new terrorizing the Drowning City and the build-up to it is methodical. Mignola and Golden are a fantastic team and take their time letting the story develop on its own. Reynolds’ artwork is very atmospheric in its approach. Joe Golem Occult Detective: The Outer Dark #1 is a very well-thought out first issue that may seem pretty quiet in terms of action, but the tone it sets for the rest of the series is very loud.

Joe Golem Occult Detective: The Outer Dark #1 is available now.

Rapture #1

“But the thing is always – and I mean always, prophesying doom and gloom.”

Geomancers are some of the most powerful characters created, but even they need some help every now and then. In Rapture #1 from Valiant Comics, the last geomancer Tama is seeking out an unusual group of individuals for help. The issue is written by Matt Kindt, illustrated by CAFU, colored by Andrew Dalhouse, and lettered by Dave Sharpe.

On a scarred landscape, two otherworldly armies prepare to battle one last time, vying for control of a massive tower named from an ancient language no longer permitted to be spoken. One army is led by a primeval force named Babel, whose goal is singular: to breach “Heaven” no matter the cost. The only thing standing in his way is a gray-haired barbaric warrior, filled with rage and regret – a man who sees this battle as his last chance for redemption. But he knows his depleted forces have little chance of victory unless aid comes soon. Enter Tama: a 12-year-old girl on the crest of a hill overlooking the battle, who has just become humanity’s only hope. The last in an ancient line of mystics who protect the Earth, she has foreseen this battle and knows millions will perish if she’s unable to stop it. Now Tama and her ragtag team of malcontents – Ninjak, Shadowman, and Punk Mambo – must somehow defeat an elder god hell bent on piercing the heavens.

Kindt knows that there’s a lot going on in Rapture #1 which is why he works to make it so accessible to new readers. Neither the concept of the Geomancer nor some of the characters aren’t entirely new to Valiant fans, but Kindt works to condense a deep backstory into an issue that wants to tackle a lot going forward. Funneling the story through Tama is a great approach as her relatively cool demeanor helps add calm to the impending doom facing the world. The issue moves at very relaxed pace because of Tama’s personality isn’t one for hyperbole; Kindt ensures the reader knows the stakes without exaggeration. And the cast of characters is definitely a strange mix, but their styles should blend well and offer some very exciting interactions.

CAFU’s artwork leans pretty heavily into the mystical in many regards. Most of the issue takes place in the Deadside, which CAFU defines with rotting trees and an angry environment. The characters Tama encounters there are straight out of a fantasy writer’s imagination as CAFU infuses the book with a sense of other-worldliness appropriate for the Deadside setting. The modern world is obviously illustrated in stark contrast and CAFU reminds the reader of that by illustrating with a cleaner look. Dalhouse colors the issue in a way that helps the reader move between the settings quite effortlessly, making even the doldrums of the Deadside look richer in its despair.

Rapture #1 is a set-up issue in every way, but each of those ways still manages to feel fresh. Tama is tasked with the very tall order of saving the world with a team of individuals who normally wouldn’t team up with one another. Kindt’s script is easy and does a great job of conveying to the reader the stakes faced by the team. CAFU’s artwork is clean and does a fantastic job of showing the reader what kind of setting the Deadside really is. Rapture #1 sets the table for what’s to come and it’s looking like it’ll be a lot.

Rapture #1 is available now.

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