An opening issue that is nothing but thunderous, chaotic creativity.

Review: BEAR PIRATE VIKING QUEEN #1 — The Chaos of the Sea

From writer Sean Lewis (Bliss, King Spawn) and artist Jonathan Marks Barravecchia (Record Store RendevouzGundam Battle Breaker) comes a furious storm of comics creativity with Bear Pirate Viking Queen #1. With an intentionally muddled script that constantly leaves the reader questioning reality, and an utterly staggering visual approach, Bear Pirate Viking Queen is one of the strongest debut issues in Image Comics’ entire catalogue.

“A blood-splattered story of conquest. Bears. Pirates. Vikings. And Queens—all battling for their claim to determine what the world will become.”

Writing & Plot

Sean Lewis’s ever-unique approach to narrative reaches a new career peak with Bear Pirate Viking Queen #1. This first issue follows Captain Paul Reddish, a sailor with the Royal Navy – and his descent into madness and piracy. A once “respected” sailor scorned by the very county he was loyal to, he turns his loyalty to plunder and slaughter, all while his mind slips further from reality. Lewis has always been a master of delivering fragmented plots with not always reliable narrators. However, especially in conjunction with this comic’s art style, the reader never quite has a bearing on which parts of the story are actually happening, and which ones are a figment of Reddish’s ailing psyche. Lewis’s character dialogue is scant, focusing mostly on Reddish’s internal thoughts and how he focuses so much on hate and anger. His entire existence now seems like he’s waging a war on those who appeal to law and reason, after being abandoned by those very principles. Viking Queen becomes more and more intriguing as it continues, and this issue peaks at the very end – when you realize that Reddish is not this mini-series’ main character. Lewis’s plotting here is deeply intriguing – but he lets its strongest aspects be told through the visual storytelling.


Art Direction

Jonathan Marks Barravecchia is responsible for the art and lettering of Bear Pirate Viking Queen #1, and as such he firmly plants himself as a massive creative force in comics today. His dark watercolor style both perfectly crafts this book’s chaotic, oppressive tone while obfuscating reality for the reader. Collages of blood and battle turn into smoky, dreamlike hazes as Reddish looks back upon his battles and reckons with what he sees in his mind’s eye. Barravecchia’s interpretation of storms on the ocean are perhaps the most effective use of weather I’ve seen in comics. Every panel is wrapped in the deep blues of storm clouds and flashes of lightning, and when paired with the narration it makes the setting feel like a living, vengeful being. Barravecchia’s character unique character rendering is a standout as well, as he constantly changes his approach to the human characters in the book. Reddish drifts between visible primal rage, to leadership-focused determination, and then to fear and despair. There’s a scene when Reddish first encounters the bear where the whole panel washes out white as dear grips him. The approach to characters who appear later in the book brilliantly contrast to the pirates, making them look like ethereal dreams and nightmares aboard a rotting ship. Barravechia’s hand-penciled lettering is the only way that this comic’s reading experience could have been tied together. The natural inflections of character speech and sudden changes in emotion, as well as the SFX work, have the grimy and unpolished look that perfectly matches the art. There’s a character near the end whose dialogue lettering is almost illegible, capturing the words of a delusional old man whose grip on reality long left him behind. Barravecchia’s work makes this comic feel like an illustrated scroll telling some old, terrifying myth.


Bear Pirate Viking Queen #1 is a furious storm of comic book creation. Sean Lewis’s script intentionally muddles the reader’s view of the lead character as he loses his mind and focus on reality, offering twists and revelations galore. The visual work of Jonathan Marks Barravecchia is astounding, with a watercolor and kind of messy penciling approach that pulls the audience into the book’s atmosphere of madness, myth, and terror. A must read for fans of The Northman, Hellblade, and Ridley Scott’s Taboo. Be sure to grab this first issue, out now.

Justin Munday
Justin Munday
Reader and hoarder of comics. Quietly sipping coffee, reading, and watching sci-fi in Knoxville, TN.
An opening issue that is nothing but thunderous, chaotic creativity.Review: BEAR PIRATE VIKING QUEEN #1 — The Chaos of the Sea