(BOOM! Studios / KaBOOM!, 2014)
Written & Illustrated by Mike Kunkel
My wife often mentions that I am immature. It may certainly be true. I like Saturday morning cartoons, at least the ones from my youth that are reruns. When watching said cartoons I like to eat sugary cereal, preferably something with marshmallows or chocolate flavoring that will change the remaining milk in the bowl. I would rather eat pizza than vegetables, though occasionally some veggies on a pizza can pass. I kind of enjoy playing with my kids’ toys, weather they are there or not. (Notice I have not included comic books in this equation.) But one thing that I will not tolerate in my long list of “childish” loves is Herobear and the Kid. I love this book.
To prove my love is that of the comic book aficionado (Hah…he ironically scoffed.) I will now go into a review of this book on its technical merits, as well as creator Mike Kunkel’s ability to craft an all-ages story that will teach a lesson.
First of all, may I point out that this story is about a ten-foot polar bear that wears a cape and can fly? Okay, learned analysis finished. For a quick recap, just to get you involved in what’s going on here, Tyler (the Kid) is the grandson of a recently deceased Santa Claus, who was gifted a watch and a toy bear on the day of this grandfather’s death. The watch is basically a Naughty/Nice-ometer and the bear…well of course it’s Herobear, a toy who transforms into a super hero. There is a bunch of mythology to the tale that is explained as we progress through this first issue, but nothing that’s so deep that it isn’t easy to jump into. To keep it appropriately vague, there’s a plot to do something evil…it doesn’t matter too much…you’ll get the gist of it once you start reading.
In all seriousness though, one look through these pages and you can tell that Mr. Kunkel (Scratch9, Billy Batson and the Magic of SHAZAM!) has the talent and skill to craft a beautiful, iconic comic. This book would find a welcome home within any of my beloved cartoons; stylistically he has a lock on what looks good. He has a Bill Watterson grasp of a child’s imagination and Walt Disney’s ability to bring that to a larger audience.
As far as Kunkel’s skill with a pen, not only has he created an instantly recognizable character with Herobear, but also he has melded a cartoon style with the comic style so that the story flows well. There are places where he jams two images into the same panel, for example two images of Herobear with only slight changes between them, like the tile or turn of a head. It’s an ingenious way to give a feeling of movement without the little squiggly lines. Kunkel has an animator’s deft grasp of pacing, and uses it to the complete advantage of the comic.
So there’s your fancy-pants review. I could have just wrote, “this is a great comic, read it,” but that’s not what we’re supposed to do, and it sounds childish. We abhor childishness…except when it comes to all things cool and awesome and wonderful like Herobear and the Kid. Kunkel weaves the disparate parts of our collective mythology into a beautiful tale, perfect for all ages.
Brad Gischia is a writer and artist living in the frozen Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is married and has three kids and a dog, who all put up with his incessant prattling about comic books.