Hello once more, dear friends. It’s beary good to see you again. I could bear-ly stand the wait. You’ll like this one so much you’ll tear into it with your bear hands. I beared my soul during this one. Not to be the bearer of bad news, but it does feature an army of fearsome monsters laying waste to the populace.
Written and illustrated by Ethan Nicolle, of Axe Cop fame, Bearmageddon features a familiar story; a group of self-entitled freeloaders ventures forth on a road trip… just as an apocalyptic attack against humanity is launched… by BEARS! The premise alone is that curious blend of ridiculous and awesome that only the co-creator of Axe Cop could create. It actually kind of makes sense, really; Zombies are far too passé nowadays. When it comes to the end of civilization as we know it, bears are really the ones we should fear (five bucks says they’re lead by Winnie the Pooh).
First the art. By the elder gods the art! It’s no surprise that Mr. Nicolle can illustrate even the most ridiculous images well, but it’s somehow refreshing to see it again and again. The characters have this deceptive simplicity about them, looking almost like caricatures of people we should recognize, only with long faces, stick-thin limbs, and enormous eyes. They look cartoony without actually being cartoons. And then WHAM, we see bears devouring the flesh of some poor victim… in delectably morbid detail. That’s just the visual skeleton of the comic, however. Bearmageddon has a whole team of people behind its art, including color flatters Johnathan Mastron and Matthew Sargent and head colorist Noah Maas, who work together nicely to give the comic depth and detail. The awesome banner at the top was colored by Jordan Kotzebue and Mr. Nicolle himself. Now, if a banner like that doesn’t pique your interest, I’d imagine that not much else will.
As far as writing goes, the comic has only recently (relatively speaking; there was a hiatus) begun to display action and suspense in any real amount. What we have gotten, however, is excellent world establishment and character development, especially in regards to Joel, the everyman protagonist of the series. Joel is a 22 year old living in his father’s house, working a miserable job at the local “Wow Mart” to pay the rent that his father enforces because he wants to instill manly values in his son. Rather than take the lessons to heart, however, Joel decides to just up and quit his cushy workaday life in order to lead a life of “freedom” in the woods with his friends, who, of course, only lead him into trouble. Just when it seems he’s about to come to his adult senses, Joel encounters that which makes idiots of all men – Woman.Now, what I find truly fascinating about the characters is how so damn identifiable they all are. Joel is essentially a stand in for the young adults of the current generation, essentially good, but apathetic and unmotivated. His best friend, Gogs, is the perpetual slacker that thinks he’s more badass than he is. Their employer is the textbook definition of the mean boss. One character’s only defining characteristic is he’s a stoner. Another is a self-righteous eco hypocrite hipster hippie freeloader who just ends up making things incredibly worse than they ever should’ve been in the first place. Anyone who has ever lived has known people like these and if you haven’t, then youwere those people. Those aren’t even all the characters, those are just the ones that have names and appear for more than two consecutive pages.
The dialogue is smooth and natural, though certain colloquialisms like “Dude” get abused so much a therapist might be required, but what do you expect when your cast mostly consists of slackers in their twenties. The pacing also works well here, beginning with the initial setup, dropping hints and fore-shadowing in-between character development, and when the characters find themselves in the worst possible situation to be in when monsters attack, that’s when the monsters attack. Standard horror story formula; simple, classic, and effective.
If you like character-driven horror stories, but you’re tired of zombies, vampires, and the like laying siege to mankind, then perhaps this web comic is the one for you. After all, what defines horror better than grizzly murders?
(I think I officially used up all of my allotted bear puns)
Bearmageddon was created by Ethan Nicolle in 2009 and officially begun in 2011. It currently updates every Wednesday. Mr. Nicolle apparently has his own site which can be found right here. Bearmageddon is not intended for children.