- Writers: James Tynion IV, Kat Leyh, Tessa Stone, Pranas T. Naujokaitis, Mairghread Scott
- Illustrators: Erica Henderson, Kat Leyh, Tessa Stone, Pranas T. Naujokaitis, Meredith McClaren
- Publisher: KaBOOM! Studios
If you ever told me that I would one day read a comic about a paralyzed horse and feel emotions other than confusion or boredom, I’m pretty sure I’d laugh in your face…until a week ago. Bravest Warriors: Paralyzed Horse Giant #1 is a wonderful mix of stylized lines, bright and eye-popping palettes, dark cold and gritty shades. Interweave five incredible engaging and humorous tales of Beth’s Paralyzed Horse into an amazing 47 pages (well, 33…there’s quite a few ads,) and we have a book that is tied together nicely.
For those who don’t know, Bravest Warriors is a webseries created by a man named Pendleton Ward (Adventure Time, Over The Garden Wall, and The Marvelous Misadventure of Flapjack.) Mr. Ward seems to be a creator of vast worlds with sprawling, and sometimes confusing, lore and setting. Bravest Warriors is no exception, a futuristic setting (apparently on the planet of Mars) with alien species, FTL travel, and reality-altering worms with nightmare-inducing features and motives.
With all of the dangers of this new world, there are heroes that protect the universe, they are known as the Bravest Warriors, Chris Kirkman, Beth Tezuka, Danny Vasquez, and…Wallow. But this comic is not about them, it is about Beth’s horse who realized the meaning of the universe and became so overwhelmed by the magnitude and incredible sudden understanding that he just ceased to move. The comic follows five vignettes of the poor paralyzed horse, some answering questions, some raising even more questions.
The first story: “Jellyfish Beach,” written by James Tynion IV (Batman Eternal, The Woods, Eighth Seal,) and illustrated by Erica Henderson (Super Secret Crises War: Johnny Bravo, Quantum and Woody, Original Sins) actually seems to be more about Chris’ powers and his feelings for Beth told through the thoughts of the Paralyzed Horse. An endearing written short tale about young Chris and Beth, the Paralyzed Horse understands Chris’ latent abilities as an Emotion Lord (please look that up if you don’t know) and he is afraid. After Chris leaves him the Paralyzed Horse meets an unexpected visitor who speaks in characteristic cryptic sentences, and reveals information through one of the weirdest methods I’ve ever heard of, and the worst part: the information is never revealed to the reader! Teasing and withholding information aside, this was a sweet little exchange between young Chris and young Beth, but no new ground is broken here, at least not contributing to the canon of the Paralyzed Horse.
The art is amazing here, it both captures the soul of the art style of the show yet uses lines in a way that is much like a child’s story book or comic book, which seems to be the theme for this story. The characters almost look as though they are captured in a still frame of a running episode, but the attention to deeper shadows and lined detail on still images give away a slightly different art direction. Lines aren’t quite as straight as they are in the webseries, blue bolts of electricity are used to signify pain, and Mr. Horse himself has so many lines he looks as though he might have developed crow’s-feet. Not that any of this is bad, quite the opposite, it is really great, the art for this story is very…”comic book-y” in feel and aesthetic, and it lends to this first story in a great way.
The second story: “Flies” written and illustrated by Kat Leyh (Adventure Time (Comics), Pancakes, Bird Witch, Bravest Warriors (Comics),) is about as “normal” as Bravest Warriors can get. Beth is outside, tending to her poor paralytic horse because flies keep attack him, biting him all over the place. The other warriors show up and try to help in the most…overmuch ways one can imagine for flies. Eventually the problem works itself out and the story is finished. Now while that might seem like a simple story, it is without a doubt, entertaining. It is a story about a group of friends simply trying to clean an animal, that’s it. And you know what? It make me feel things. A story about four teens trying to kill flies made me feel happy, and then it made me laugh. Not just the story itself, but the way it was told, it’s something I can’t really give words to without giving away the entire story-arc, and I’d rather people read this one.
Now if the story for “Flies” is simple, the art would have to be considered quite the opposite. The first story made use of slight shadow work and detail, but this one…takes that and expands on these features. There is much more motion and action in this one. While they are still pictures of the characters, they always feel like they are in motion, not quite like a paused episode, but something between a flipbook and actual animated features, it is really quite remarkable. The art remains true to the Bravest Warriors art style, but certain facial expressions and explosions behind action exclamations are a little something extra. But there is a loss of the gloss that comes from the computer animation, finger and neck proportions are not always the same from panel to panel, things like that. It all feels very organic, and then I realized “this is totally hand-drawn!” The art in this story, I love so much!
The third story: “Got Your Back” written and illustrated by Tessa Stone (Bravest Warriors, Adventure Time: Candy Capers, Adventure Time: Pixel Princesses, Hanna Is Not A Boy’s Name,) starts off with a story that I almost wrote off. Especially after teasing at an epic mission and then downplaying the urgency by explaining the real goal: to prevent a bad friend date. Aside from it being a nice little fluff piece, the story is nothing I’d really say is earth-shattering, except for a strange new character I’ve never seen before who seems hellbent on trying to ruin Chris and Beth’s outing. Unfortunately for the two, and the Paralyzed Horse, Danny’s already got the “ruining-a-mood” skill down to an art form.
The art in this piece is a major departure from the classic Bravest Warriors art style. Where the original style of the world is stylized with lots of ovoid shapes and rounded edges and somewhat unrealistic proportions, Beth and Chris are very sharply drawn, there are points and straight lines everywhere. Chins, arms, legs, hair, even a crown are all defined by realistic and unchanging line work. The world itself seems very much rectangular, especially character faces and clothes. Another thing to note is that this art style makes everyone look older, I had thought Beth and Chris were in their early twenties when I first saw this art, however, the Paralyzed Horse’s log confirms that it is indeed 3085. The last thing I will say about the art in this piece is that I’m sad the art never fully explains what the creature attempting to ruin the date is.
The fourth story: “Paralyzed With Hunger” written and illustrated by Pranas T. Naujokaitis (Balloon Toons, Regular Show (Comic), Bee and Puppycat (Comic), Bravest Warriors (Comic),) answers a question some may have had about the Paralyzed Horse: “Does he need food?” The Paralyzed Horse does indeed need to eat, and he has the worst time of trying to acquire food with no means of transportation or communication. For an entire month, the universe teases the poor horse, dangling food just before him, but not allowing him to eat. The resolution ultimately works out for him, (unlikely allies are great,) but this raises a couple of questions. Why did nobody feed the horse for a month? How has he survived this long if nobody tends to his feeding time? Does he get sick? How is he chewing the food!? He’s paralyzed! And don’t me get started on all the bathroom related questions…Jokes aside, this story is a funny little side story that reveals a little more about the predicament Paralyzed Horse finds himself in.
The art for this story is what I imagine this show might look like in the 90’s on ABC with Disney’s “One Saturday Morning” lineup or something you’d see in the Sunday newspaper. It screams “cartoonish comic script” with what looks to be hand-drawn panels that hold true to the Bravest Warriors’ original designs but place them in a very “90’s comic book” setting, bright primary colors on every page with onomatopoeia everywhere. Even at the darkest moments of the story for emotion, the art never felt like it descended into the despair that Paralyzed Horse was experiencing on those very same panels. Perhaps a nitpick, but I felt it was a missed opportunity to play around with color and lighting some more, but I got to see Paralyzed Horse go full crazy with a disembodied head shooting rainbows in space…so I have no real room to complain…sounds crazy? Well it is, but in a good way.
The fifth story: “Outside The Realm Of Time” written by Mairghread Scott (Transformers: Prime, Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters, Transformers: Rescue Bots,) and illustrated by Meredith McClaren (Adventure Time: Pixel Princesses, Adventure Time: Playing With Fire, Adventure Time: Seeing Red, Hinges, Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales,) is a tale about the Bravest Warriors fighting…some kind of blob monster while Paralyzed Horse is locked in eternal battle with the Aeon Worm. As the warriors are suffering in the bowels of the monster, Paralyzed Horse makes a rash, (and wildly impulsive,) decision: at the risk of everything in the universe, he pushes his telekinesis to ridiculous limits and uses a rather unconventional method to dispatch the beast. All the while, still physically doing battle with the vile worm in the “See-Through Zone.” And meanwhile, the four young warriors are none the wiser.
The art here makes a stylized rendition of the Bravest Warriors art style but amalgamated with an art style that I cannot quite place. Faces are rounded, especially Beth’s, to an almost completely circular shape, but their body structures are kept rather similar, save for a panel or two. Panels are two and three toned in color here, the contrasting hues are quite beautiful and each panel feels like a self-contained locale. Though the Warriors never leave the area they are doing battle in, the coloration before and after battle makes the cave they are seem like a different world. Looking at the final panel, I am fondly reminded of visuals found in video game titles like “Kirby” and “Klonoa,” and that is immensely satisfying for reasons I cannot put into words, the visuals just tickle my optical pleasure center.
Overall, I’d like to say that this Bravest Warriors: Paralyzed Horse Giant #1 was an absolute joy to read. Awesome, heartwarming and entertaining stories with vibrant and living and emotion-provoking art makes this one of my favorite graphic novels of the year, as well as one of my favorite Bravest Warriors-related anything of this year.
As for the fate of this first issue, it is my sincere hope that this comic takes off and becomes a series of at least a couple more installments. Something that I’ve been dying to write about the Paralyzed Horse, is that it seems so much more like he is Beth’s father than her actual birth father. Every move he makes, every time he takes to combat an enemy, every struggle he willingly faces is for her sake. If I can get more of this awesome father figure, I will most definitely do so. And I encourage you to do so as well.
Until next time, comic fans.
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