By Jody LeHeup, Sebastian Girner, Nil Vendrell Pallach, Michael Spicer, and Dave Lanphear
Don’t let the title fool you, this isn’t about a man sans shirt fighting bears; it is a book about a man who fights bears naked. So, the term ‘shirtless’ seems a little irrelevant seeing as though the man is also pants-less, and shoe-less, and he is certainly underwear-less. Apart from the nuanced title, Shirtless Bear-Fighter #1 is a book that delivers what you expect and it is terrific.
What better way to pass the day than by picking up a book that is fun and it knows what it is? This book isn’t going to be throwing parallel universes at you or complicated science to explain how people come back to life. Shirtless Bear-Fighter is to comics what Snakes on a Plane is to movies – meaning it gives you what you want. The issue opens up in Major City, following an animal control worker who is called to take on a bear that is terrorizing the city. We then follow the bear on his path of destruction as he then comes upon a young couple in the throws of love. Just as it appears that the bear cannot be stopped, the shirtless bear-fighter appears. He punches the bear in the face and subdues the bear with his (cough cough) extremely humungous manliness. So everyone is impressed with his tremendous manliness, so much so that the government is after him to assist with subduing all the crazy bears attacking US cities. How do you try to seduce Shirtless, yeah they call him Shirtless, to a life of helping the US government? Why, with flapjacks and maple syrup of course!
Okay, this book has a lot of ridiculous moments: a man who can destroy a bear with a suplex and an uppercut and a house made out of bears called the bearhouse. The story written by the tag-team writing crew of LeHeup and Girner will have you saying “really?” and “huh” as much as it will have you smiling with delight throughout the issue. The issue reads smoothly, the story is great without being too campy because the reader still feels like they are in on the joke not that they are the joke. When making a story like this, it is important to not write down to the audience, but to embrace the best parts of campy comic books and give that in full to the readers. Gratuitous nudity, check. Tons of action, check. Badass yet endearing lead, check. Passable story to hold everything together, check. Honestly, the most non-believable thing about this book was that the female government agent was almost repulsed when meeting Shirtless and not throwing her panties at him, like any other self respecting woman would have done.
Art in this issue is from Pallach and Spicer with letters from Lanphear. This creative team created a God, Shirtless be thy name. This hairy, jacked, man of the woods is a modern day hipster Tarzan. The character design is insane, with tons of detail provided to make this book fun from shirtless flying in his bear plane (yes a plane made out of bears, duh) to a bad guy bear with an eye patch, this book has everything. This book is up and down, back and forth full of fun and comic delight in every panel. The creative team took this job just as seriously as the writing team, and the result is pure magic. Do not let the silly premise fool you, this book has tremendous pacing and action sequences that really make you believe in Shirtless. The hits are made more intense with “Bear Punch!” written next to them, which just proves that this team had as much fun making this as the readers will reading it.
If you pick up this book, you better know what you are getting. If a single person complains, then they should not have picked up this book. Shirtless Bear-Fighter #1 is not for everyone; the book is just as devoid of any intellectual stimulation as you can imagine, but that is the point. This book is meant to provide a nice escape into a world where Bears can wear eye patches (finally some equality!) and men can make houses and planes out of bears. That is a world where Shirtless will continue to eat flapjacks and keep punching bears in the face, so we should all be lucky enough to get to read about it.