Subversive Comic’s full colour glossy Bearlands, written by Jeremy Biggs and illustrated by Bakki, tells the anthropomorphic story of an unnamed chopper-riding, leather-clad, Matrix sunglasses wearing, cigarette smoking teddy bear as he tries to survive in the aftermath of a zom-bear apocalypse.
Haunted by dreams of his life before, our motorcycling hero turns up alone at the gates of Beartertown needing petrol to continue his ride north through the wilds to meet up with his compatriots in what he believes is an area safe from the zombie infection. His appearance there is unwelcome until he shows what he is willing to trade with – pure honey. This gets him a meaning with the bear in charge of the town, known only as The Father, who we later discover views honey as a drug that has blighted society. Imprisoned in an attempt to force him to reveal the source of his honey, our hero befriends a father and son who have also fallen foul of The Father’s men and who are in danger of being used in the town’s gladiatorial arena.
So far, so Walking Dead. My immediate reaction on seeing these comics for the first time was that they were going to be tongue-in-cheek especially given their issue titles, Left 4 Ted, City of The Dead and Ted Proof. Except they are not tongue-in-cheek as this is a story written straight, save for the characters being drawn as teddy bears, bar the inclusion of a twist that can be summed up in one sentence from issue three – “All I know is a life without honey ain’t worth living.”
Writer Jeremy Biggs has taken the cliché of bears loving honey and given it a twist that substitutes honey for drugs. Yes Bearlands riffs off The Walking Dead but it is this pure uncut honey, rather than the zombies, that leads the story after the initial scene setting of issue one, and the series is all the better for it.
Thai artist Bakki’s work is polished and dynamic, showing off the action scenes well while getting a surprising amount of emotion into his character’s faces. This could have so easily gone wrong and ended up being an odd hybrid of an adventure-style story using humour-style art, and it is to Bakki’s credit that it does not.
Bearlands was a surprise, and while I probably benefited by reading the first three issues back to back, it presents a very readable story with nice artwork and with enough of a twist to raise it above the seeming hordes of other zombie titles around at the moment.