Cover to 'Shirtless Bear-Fighter!'. Art by Nil Vendrell Pallach and Michael Spicer/Image Comics

Cover to ‘Shirtless Bear-Fighter!’. Art by Andrew Robinson/Image Comics

By Matthew C. BrownShirtless Bear-Fighter! is equal parts hilarity, action, and imagination. It will probably be likened to some of the best referential comedy around today, yet as you turn the pages there’s this unmistakable feeling that you’ve been thrust into a world that is completely unique in its vision.

Jody LeHeup and Sebastian Girner, the writing team behind this laugh-out-loud gem, mine every possible nook and cranny of this world for comedy. The jokes are as constant and severe as the bears in Shirtless’ face, but the humor punches you with a subtlety that will likely bring you to tears of laughter. Embrace that our lead’s name is Shirtless Bear-Fighter (note the hyphen). When we meet him for the first time and you notice that he is not only shirtless but pantsless as well, just go with it.

Oh yeah, we forgot to mention: Shirtless sports a blur betwixt his thighs that would make a donkey cast its eyes to the ground and back away slowly.

Interior page to 'Shirtless Bear-Fighter!'. Art by Nil Vendrell Pallach and Michael Spicer/Image Comics

Interior page to ‘Shirtless Bear-Fighter!’. Art by Nil Vendrell Pallach and Michael Spicer/Image Comics

Shirtless is the naked steward of the forest, protecting people from the bears that inhabit and often terrorize the area. The subtitle of this book is “Man vs. Nature”, which describes Shirtless’ internal struggle between his vows to patrol the forest and his former life of Special Ops service to the United States. (And, of course, the literal struggle between Man vs. Bear.)

The book draws from every action story or film where the army finds itself in over its head and has to recruit the reluctant, retired guy with a troubled past. With all these tropes flying around it doesn’t hurt that Nil Vendrell Pallach’s art could easily draw comparisons to The Venture Brothers. The look is very much like the Adult Swim series if everything had been covered in bear pelts and named Bear-this or that. (Not hard to imagine, really.)

This book has all the potential in the world. There is absolutely nothing standing in the way of this energetic new series and the equally energetic team behind it. I look forward to seeing the world of Shirtless Bear-Fighter! broaden its ursine horizons.

Image Comics/$3.99

Written by Jody LeHeup and Sebastian Girner.

Art by Nil Vendrell Pallach.

Colors by Michael Spicer.

Letters by Dave Lanphear.

10 out of 10