Writer: Frankee White
Illustrator: Adam Markiewicz
Publisher: Caliber Comics
WHAT IS IT?
An ambitious fantasy about one woman's Faustian deal and how she chooses to weigh the benefits and consequences of her decision.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Selm was a young girl when she was saved by the mighty Bear, a skilled soldier feared on the battlefield. But though a terror to witness if you oppose him, his heart seems pure toward Selm, who is his squire now that she's older.
When the two reach a strange shack in the middle of a swampy bog, Selm is offered the chance of a lifetime. But it will not come without sacrifice...
With her newfound power, Selm must decide if she wants to be a hero, or something else entirely.
Do our past actions taint all of our future deeds? Does everyone with power have to be a hero? Or is the concept of surviving with a little less fear in our lives enough?
So much of Bear's kindness or goodness is implied through his facial expressions and the color of his armor, allowing the story to speed ahead without spending too much time establishing it – It's a testament to the skills of Adam Markiewicz and A.H.G.
Thought balloons aren't used much anymore, but I thought they helped establish Selm's important inner narrative
The giant anglerfish monster is brilliant and terrifying, a perfect way to showcase the dangers Selm isn't trained for but may have the strength to tackle
Bear’s helmet being too large and unwieldy for Selm is the perfect metaphor for how she can't possibly fill the void left by him. Using it to protect herself later, then leaving its broken shell behind symbolizes her relationship to Bear, and lives up to the comic's title. Plus, the helmet being too large works from a plot standpoint, giving Selm cause to find a way to sell the armor she's too small for.
You will love and root for the story's characters immediately – Kiklyn was my personal favorite
Broken Bear's strong and nuanced female protagonist gives the book a texture and depth that could not be achieved by another white male protagonist
Markiewicz draws the world and characters so much larger than Selm, making her look small and feeble in comparison, reinforcing the vulnerability she's used to feeling
There's a good balance between the texture given by the line art and shading from Markiewicz and the texture given through A.H.G.'s colors
Speaking of A.H.G.'s colors, most pages have a limited color palette, giving each scene its own tone, as well as the world itself, and on the rare occasion the palette is broken, you take notice
I also appreciate how, even with the limited palette, the color can be used to break apart past and present, like in the page below
There's a great scene with the Infinity Gauntlet, a helmet that looks an awful lot like Magneto’s, and more fun, discoverable easter eggs
The whole first volume feels like a classic RPG video game, and it makes me wish I could play through it and discover the universe the creative team has built
I appreciate how White shares credit for the story with Markiewicz
The font chosen for the book feels just a little thick and heavy (in a good way), and it lends a subtle weight to the comic's aesthetic, while the bit of extra air in the balloons gives a sense of loneliness and the characters being too small for the dangerous world around them
The sound effects are thoughtful and textured, like pictured below, and you can definitely hear the sound they mean to illustrate
The story arc closes perfectly, with a real stinger of a last line
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
I wonder if Selm's decision would be harder-hitting if we saw more of her and Bear’s backstory
Lettering can be difficult to read on the phone without zooming in, if that's how you read comics. You’ll want to pick it up in print or read on a tablet unless you’re using SmartPanel technology.
Blood and violence make this not the best book for kids
Adam Markiewicz also did the lettering for the book but wasn't credited for it in the comic
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Broken Bear is Macbeth for the modern age. More than a gender-bent retelling, it sets the patriarchy ablaze and explores what happens next.
But each reader's expectations about this next step say more about them than about our protagonist. Think she should be haunted by her decision and be made to atone? What does that say about you? Think no one should get somewhere they didn't achieve through discipline and experience? Why? Would you have made the same choices Selm did? Does that make it right?
Broken Bear holds up a mirror that forces us to examine our own belief system for better or for worse – an impressive feat for a writer's first graphic novel.
Plus, the world built and rendered so beautifully by Adam Markiewicz and A.H.G is everything lovers of fantasy could ask for. You're going to want to read this one. Probably more than once.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Gone Fishing by Frankee White & Alrissa Sia
Seven To Eternity, Vol. 1 by Rick Remender & Jerome Opeña
Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Emma Ríos
If you like the art:
Trench Coat Samurai by Adam Markiewicz
Ogre by Bob Salley & Shawn Daley
Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman & Andy Kubert
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Frankee White – Writer
New Face: This is Frankee White's debut graphic novel
Used to make a webcomic with Melody Calderon and James Hohenstein, called "Wolf on Vacation"
Adam Markiewicz – Illustrator & Letterer
Multitalented: Also writes, letters and colors comics
Writes and records his own music as Man-Machine Interface
A.H.G. – Colorist
See more of their work on their portfolio site
DC Hopkins – Logo & Design
Is a staff letterer for AndWorld design, the studio established by Fearscape letterer, Deron Bennett
Multitalented: Co-hosts the horror podcast, Eerie, International, and the comics/pop culture podcast, Hideous Energy
Moniker: His real first name is David, and he chooses not to share what his middle name is
Andrea Lorenzo Molinari – Editor
Multitalented: Has also written comics and scholarly articles, and has created audio courses and a television documentary
Received his Ph.D. from Marquette University
HOW DO I BUY IT?
Writer Frankee White will have limited release physical copies at Comic Con Revolution Chicago June 1st & 2nd. Leftovers will be sold at his Gumroad.
The comic will be distributed through Diamond later this year. Stay tuned to Frankee White's Twitter account for updates!
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