Story by: Margaret Atwood and Ken Stacey
Art by: Ken Stacey
Published by: Dark Horse Comics
I honestly couldn’t tell you what I was expected about this comic, but I whatever it was I can tell you I was blown away by this comic. Harking back to pre-WW2 comics, the art-style, writing and characters are such a change of place from where comics have come from, War Bears in as enjoyable as it is nostalgic.
The art style really set the scene for me from the very beginning, everything looks hand drawn, lined and coloured. The art style was very similar to that of the ‘Canadian whites’ which Atwood references in her introduction to the comic. It is also coloured with more subdued tones, rather than the bright colours available to us today in the digital age. With the colours as well, I don’t know if it’s an effect or the real thing but it looks as though it has been coloured by hand with inks, which adds a wonderful touch to the comic.
The comic also boasts a well-rounded cast and doesn’t fall into the pit-falls of too big a cast, it keeps its focus on a handful of characters; our protagonist Alain Zurakowski, his parents and two main employees of Canoodle Comics, Gloria the editor-in-chief and Mike, another artist. As well as a grumpy old lady who hates comics and some other secondary background characters. I think that limiting the characters was a good move, as it stopped anything that could be considered clutter and unnecessary for the plot and pacing. Especially when it could have been very easy to have every artist, writer and letterer at Canoodle Comics involved in the plot.
It was well written and well-paced, I was never bored or felt that the story was lagging. Also I really felt for the protagonist; pity when he is riddled with guilt as he cannot fight in the war like his brothers and furious for him when his idea for the war bear comic being given away to a more experienced artist.
The best part about this comic is you get your money’s worth as really within the covers there are two comics. First about Alain and his personal struggles in his job and with his family and then at the end we actually get to read the first Oursonette strip. The Oursonette strip is illustrated differently from the rest of the comic, it appears completely in black ink on off-white paper once again referencing back to the ‘Canadian whites’ that this comic is based off of. I think that this was an amazing addition to the comic and really helped it feel complete.
I honestly can’t wait to read the next issue and see where this story goes.
Margaret Atwood has been one of my most admired writers for many years. She is truly brilliant, multi talented, and an inspiration to so many. This new historical fiction series was highly anticipated, especially since Atwood collaborated with Ken Steacy, the deservedly acclaimed artist. What a fabulous team-up!
Hearkening back to a time when comic literature was exciting, exaggerated, and not a little bit corny, this first issue introduced us to a classic story of an up and coming comic creator during World War II. War Bears #1 certainly embodies that Golden Age feel, and I would expect nothing less from a storyteller renowned for her diligent research. The multiple conflicts that seem to get resolved way too quickly, the drawn-out dialogue riddled with popular phrases of the era, and the comic within a comic are all staples of books of this time period, so the expectations were certainly met. War Bears feels like it should smell musty with age, a discovered treasure in Grandpa’s attic or a weekend garage sale; one of those stories that transports you back 70 years or so. If this was the goal, it was a resounding success.
Yet even so, I was hoping for Atwood’s trademark twist on the genre, and it might be coming in future issues, so I can be patient. For now, it’s a fun and traditional call back to the less complex plots of yesteryear, and I am satisfied with that.
Especially when I’ve got such amazing art to immerse myself in. Steacy really outdoes himself with this book. The characters are alive, from the very first moment, expressive and active in each of the panels. There’s a hint of the old style of art, which pairs so well with the story, but there’s also this freshness. It’s as if the original art has been remastered for modern printing and modern readers. I imagine this is difficult to pull off, but it’s happened here.
An engaging read, War Bears promises some big storylines in the following issues. Pick this issue up so you can be prepared for them.
review by Tee LaFrance Todd