From the minute you see its iconic dinosaur cover by Staz Johnson, you can’t help but be pulled into the gloriously fun world of Brawler. A delightful throwback to the days of classic anthology Warrior, packed full of creator owned genre tales and features a mix of new titles and a few familiar faces.
Publisher: Time Bomb Comics
Price: TBC from Time Bomb Comics
As we discovered in our recent interview, Brawler is the brain child of Time Bomb Comics Steve Tanner and Amnesia Agents Jason Cobley, and this first issue is a heady mix of genres, from sci-fi to steam punk to the Wild West and samurai pandas!
Despite being genre non-specific, this first issue feels quite science fiction heavy. Opener Ragnarok, may be about Norse gods and ice giants but has a very sci-fi tone to its art and story. While Tanner’s own Major Rakhana is a Victorian space adventure featuring a powerful female super soldier and her male concubine, which is a nice gender flipped take on a classic sci-fi convention. There’s also the brilliantly titled, Space Banshee Exorcist about a demonically possessed spaceship, and also Fraser Campbell and James. Cocoran’s Fortune, about a group of rebellious space pirates which is very different to their work on Alex Automatic, but no less enjoyable.
It’s not all sci-fi though as proved by two of the issue’s stand out stories: Jason Cobley’s Amnesia Agents is a series which has been on our radar for sometime, but which we have struggled to get into as a result of its slightly confusing concept involving memory police officers. However this short story about a forgotten First World War soldier works really well and tells a simple and enjoyable adventure without getting too bogged down in exposition or back story (although it could have benefitted from a bit more explanation for new readers).
However the real stand out for this debut is Dan Whitehead and David Hitchcock’s new chapter of Frankenstein Texas. We loved the first graphic novel last year and this mix of Universal monsters and the Wild West takes even more interesting twist when a werewolf gang ride into town. With its sumptuously pencilled, black and white artwork, this unique take on these classic characters is perhaps the jewel in the first issue’s crown and definitely a reason to come back next issue.
The one story which didn’t really do anything for us was Jason Cobley and Mitz’s Keiko Panda which felt like a strange concept too far and didn’t really sit well alongside the other, more serious titles with its hyper colour art and high energy tone. But as with all anthologies this is a completely subjective judgment call.
Overall, this first issue is a solid debut, but In the crowded world of indie and small press anthologies it doesn’t quite feel like it stands out from the crowd just yet. However, it does a lot of things right thanks to a solid mix of interesting stories (many of which have the potential to grow into something really unique and iconic) and a brilliantly created overall package. This is Brawler’s real strength as the strong brand they have created can build around in the future using these raw materials. If Tanner and Cobley can maintain the quality of this first issue and even improve it then this has the potential to be a knockout read in the future!