Writer Christopher Cantwell (Halt and Catch Fire, Star Wars: Obi-Wan) and artist German Garcia (Ka-Zar: Lord of the Savage Land) team up for a dark twist on the fairy tale genre with Briar #1. Featuring colors by Matheus Lopes and lettering from AndWorld Design, this first chapter takes the beloved classic fairy tale and throws it headlong into the savagery of Robert E. Howard-style Sword & Sorcery. With a tense, clever, and darkly compelling script and unique & brilliant visuals, this first issue is a gem for people wanting a true twist on some known fantasy conventions.
“What if Sleeping Beauty never got her happily ever after… and instead had to save herself? Set in a brutal fantasy world that time forgot, this isn’t the fairy tale you know!”
Writing & Plot
Christopher Cantwell‘s script for Briar #1 succeeds not just because it’s wholly entertaining, but because it dissects and twists these respective fantasy genres so well. The original Sleeping Beauty princess, or this comic’s Aurora stand-in, leads the stereotypically charmed life guided by a lofty narrator until getting pricked by that infamous spindle. After being betrayed and ignored by her supposed “Prince Charming,” she awakens 100 years later to her castle in ruins and her world shredded. Long gone is the era of royal balls and frivolity, for the time of the sword and the axe is nigh. Briar almost literally sends us from a Disney princess film to a Robert E. Howard Conan novel. The switch is jarring for sure, but is also surprisingly natural feeling. The notion that the barbarous and brutal setting of a sword and sorcery story would come after the era of fantastical royal courts, and not the other way around, is in itself a unique concept. Cantwell’s idea too that the narrator in fairy tale is the core component for guiding the story to its lighthearted conclusion, and taking that voice away brings chaos, is a very clever idea. Cantwell’s use of different types fantasy-speech, from storybook fairytale to tavern-dwelling freebooter, is sharply written and pulls the reader into this comic’s experience effortlessly. Briar starts off with an original and highly compelling script that makes me eager to see where these characters go – and just how far Cantwell pushes the boundaries of these fantasy genres.
Bringing a suitably unique and memorable visual aesthetic to Briar #1 is Ka-Zar art team German Garcia and Matheus Lopes. The duo behind one of the best-looking comics of the past couple years now lends their talents to this outstanding fantasy tale. Thanks to them, the transition from bright and beautiful fairy tale to the blood-soaked wastes of sword & sorcery is sufficiently jarring but still comes off as natural and within the comic’s aesthetic feel. Garcia’s character and world design is certainly familiar, but comes off as so singular because of his unmistakable penciling style. His thin pencils, thicker detail touches, and no use of shading or hatching allows for a reading experience that comes off as almost dreamlike – fitting for a fantasy tale about Sleeping Beauty rousing into a nightmare. Garcia’s sequencing perfectly paces the reading experience, lending both intensity to the survivalist aspects while making the passage of time feel appropriately massive. Mat Lopes’s watercolor approach adds to how unique Briar’s aesthetic is, while offering a surprising amount of range for this sort of coloring style. While Lopes’s work lends itself perfectly to brighter sequences, it’s also surprising how dense the nighttime and more gory scenes come off as. So much of this comic’s atmosphere is built around what the colors are doing, and with former The Dreaming colorist at the helm the results are fantastic. AndWorld Design’s lettering is dynamic and matches the comic’s setting perfectly. They switch from a classic medieval-fantasy font for the narration in the intro to excellent, hand drawn-styled dialogue lettering that shifts with characters’ tones naturally. Every aspect of Briar‘s artistic approach successfully draws readers in to make for one hell of an engrossing comic book.
Briar #1 is an unsettling and brutally engrossing hybrid twist of fantasy genres. Christopher Cantwell crafts a script blending a classic fairytale with the savagery of Conan the Barbarian and nails the landing with a comic that is a tense blast to read. The visuals from German Garcia and Matheus Lopes are stunning and shift from the dreaminess of a princess story to the blood-filled wastes of sword & sorcery, with a distinct artistic approach making for one of the best-looking comics of the year. Be sure to grab this debut issue when it hits shelves on September 28th!