I don't know where to start with 'Shirtless Bear Fighter.' Most of what you need to know is right there in the title, a shirtless man fights bears. What Jody LeHeup, Sebastian Girner, Nil Vendrell, and Mike Spicer have done is unapologetically campy, full of funny action movie tropes that make this a completely entertaining read from beginning to end.
SHIRTLESS BEAR FIGHTER #1
Writer: Jody LeHeup, Sebastian Girner
Artist: Nil Vendrell, Mike Spicer
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: June 21, 2017
Cover Price: $3.99
Who would you call if a giant bear began terrorizing the literally named Major City? What if you're having a romantic picnic in the forest when it's suddenly interrupted by a raging grizzly, what do you do? The only one that can save you is the bearded buffed out naked man living in a bear-house in the forest - Shirtless Bear Fighter. The imposing, fearless and angry man with the pixelated penis punches and body slams bears without hesitation. Raised and then betrayed by bears, Shirtless is a bear's worst nightmare and now he's been enlisted by the government to stop them from attacking the city. All he asks in return is 100% maple syrup and endless flapjacks (not pancakes!).
If this sounds entertaining to you (and it should) then get ready to immerse yourself in the craziest and funniest title this year. Shirtless is the Rambo of bear fighters and this over-the-top action comedy is earnest in its execution and unlike anything else in comics. It's a rare treat from Image Comics that doesn't do a lot of this type of wacky comedic adventures. LeHeup and Girner set up this crazy story with a straight face, letting the absurdity of the situation play out to hilarious effect. It actually reminded me of the 1966 'Batman' television series.
With the recently departed Adam West in mind, I couldn't help but draw comparisons between how the show and Shirtless share a similar approach. West played Batman as seriously as he could even when reciting cringe-worthy puns amid some wild shenanigans. It was campy and fun and so is Shirtless. Shirtless is all business, with a burning rage inside him against bear-kind born from an unspoken traumatic incident. He's oblivious to those around him that don't quite understand his lifestyle or powers. Yet, he's the only man for the job to save mankind from monster bears.
What sells the book is the fantastic art. Nil Vendrell presents a larger-than-life figure in Shirtless with all his muscles, pixelated wiener and piercing facial expressions. The constant scowl, mashing of teeth, and stiff hairy chin make it clear that he's not to be messed with. Vendrell includes detailed backgrounds and it all looks like it would make a wonderful animated series too. The fight scenes are marvelously choreographed using larger panels for maximum impact. Mike Spicer's vibrant and rich colors in the forest especially, really makes the art pop adding texture and warmth.
'Shirtless Bear Fighter' is ridiculously awesome and unabashedly silly. Call it a parody of action comics that take themselves way too seriously or an homage to movie hero tropes but either way this is an irresistibly good time. Sit back, relax and watch Shirtless fistfight bears, eat flapjacks, fly his bear-plane, and kick ass while completely butt-naked. It's the conspiracy comedy action thriller with rampaging bears and a burly man with a pixelated wanker you didn't know you needed.