Thursday, June 22, 2023

Comics Review: "BATTLE CHASERS ANTHOLOGY" - Best Way to Read Original Series


STORY: Joe Madureira and Munier Sharrieff
PENCILS: Joe Madureira; Adam Warren
INKS: Tom McWeeney with Joe Madureira; Adam Warren
COLORS: Liquid!; Christian Lightner; Aron Lusen; Ryan Kinnaird
LETTERS: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
COVER: Joe Madureira with Grace Liu
ISBN:  978-1-5343-1522-8; paperback (September 25, 2019)
32pp, Colors, 24.99 U.S.

Rated “T/ Teen”

Battle Chasers created by Joe Madureira

Battle Chasers is an American fantasy comic book series created by artist Joe Madureira.  Launched in April 1998, the series was sporadically published for nine issues over a period of a little over three years.  Battle Chasers #1 to #4 (cover dated: April to October 1998) were published by Image Comics' studio, Wildstorm Productions, via its “Cliffhanger” imprint.  Issues #5 to 8 (cover dated: May 1999 to 2001) were published by DC Comics via Wildstorm Productions and its “Cliffhanger” imprint.  The series returned to Image Comics for Battle Chasers #9 (cover dated: September 2001).  Although there was some art produced for a Battle Chasers #10, the issue was never published.

Well, Battle Chasers #10 finally arrives June 14th, 2023 (at least 21 years late) albeit with new series artist.  So I decided to go back and reread the original run, and there is a handy way to do that.

Battle Chasers Anthology, originally published in September 2019, collects every Battle Chasers comics story.  That includes Battle Chasers #1 to 9; the eight-page story from Battle Chasers Prelude (cover dated: February 1998); the 10-page story published in Frank Frazetta Fantasy Illustrated (cover dated: Summer 1998); and the Joe Madureira-Adam Warren “Red Monika: Interlude” serial, which was originally published in Battle Chasers #6 and #9.

[This volumes also includes a 21-page sketchbook section; a 10-page pin-up and illustration gallery; and 27-page cover art gallery.]

Battle Chasers takes place in a “steampunk” nineteenth century-type fantasy world.  It focuses on five main characters.  The first is Gully, a ten-year-old girl who possesses a pair of magical gloves left behind by her father, the great warrior, Aramus, who disappeared.  Next is Garrison, a legendary swordsman and grieving widow; he has a powerful magical sword.  Knolan is a powerful 500-year-old wizard.  His companion is Calibretto, a towering “Wargolem,” who is also an outlaw and the last of his kind.

The four join forces to find Gully's father.  They must also stop four extremely powerful villains that were inadvertently released from imprisonment by the fifth main character, Red Monika, a rogue and a voluptuous bounty hunter.  Meanwhile, the legacy of Aramus, the machinations of King Vaneer of the Unified Territories, and the secrets of Knolan begin to poison everything and everyone around them.

THE LOWDOWN:  I was a huge fan of Joe Madureira a.k.a. “Joe Mad” in the 1990s.  I used to call him “the young master” because his talent, abilities, and art seemed to explode every few months into something even better and more beautiful.  I even collected multiple pages of Joe Mad's original art.

So I was ecstatic when his first creator-owned comic book, Battle Chasers, was announced in 1997.  I was so excited about Battle Chasers when it arrived in the spring of 1998 that I also bought one of the variant covers.  I enjoyed the series, but it was a bit hard to follow because … well, because Mad took two and a half years to deliver nine issues.  For instance, there was a 16-month delay between the publication of Battle Chasers #6 (August 1999, DC Comics) and #7 (January 2001, DC Comics).

In the end, Joe Mad abandoned the series to work in the video game industry and went on to co-found a video game company.  Eventually, he did return to Battle Chasers, and Battle Chasers Anthology was published in 2019.

It is through Battle Chasers Anthology that a reader can see how imaginative, inventive, and fun to read Battle Chasers was and is.  Having the series gathered in one book allows a reader to enjoy the series without waiting months or a year-and-half to read each chapter.  The story flows, so the overall narrative comes across as impressive and well-thought out, and except for some wonky names for people, places, and beings and some awkward dialogue, the script writing by Munier Sharrieff is really good.  Engaging plots, interesting character, and surprising cliffhangers make this an exciting and gripping read.  Battle Chasers is a wild gumbo of video games scenarios, Dungeons & Dragons, and anime and manga.  Still, it is original rather than being a pastiche, although on the surface, it might appear to be as such.

To that end, along with the end of his run on Marvel Comics' Uncanny X-Men, Battle Chasers is peak Joe Mad art.  His creature design for this series is still impressive, and there was nothing like it, at least in American comic books, back then.  Battle Chasers' character design is also quite good, simply because none of the lead characters or main supporting and guests character look remotely alike.

Like Tim Townsend did when he inked Joe Mad, Tom McWeeney uses his inks to control the wild energy and eccentricity that showed itself in Mad's comic book art after he left Battle Chasers.  In the 1990s, I thought that there were no better comic book colorists than Liquid Graphics a.k.a. Liquid!  Twenty years later, the studio's work on this comic book still looks amazing.  Even the lettering by Richard Starkings & Comicraft stands out as exceptional – even today.  I'm starting to believe that, in spite of their lateness, Battle Chasers and the other two original Cliffhanger titles were not only peak 1990s mainstream comic books but also a peak in mainstream comic books in general.

I wanted to read Battle Chasers Anthology just in case I decided to read the finally arrived Battle Chasers #10 (Image Comics).  I enjoyed this collection so much that I feel that I have to at least read this new issue.

I READS YOU RECOMMENDS:  Fans of artist Joe Madureira and of his former comic book series, Battle Chasers, will want Battle Chasers Anthology.


[This volume includes an introduction by Jeph Loeb and an afterword by Joe Madureira.]

[MISC ART: Joe Madureira; Joe Madureira and Tom McWeeney with Liquid!, Joe Maduriera and Alex Garner; Joe Madureira and Vince Russell; Joe Madureira and Richard Starkings; Ed McGuiness and Liquid!; David Finch and Liquid!; Travis Charest and Richard Friend; Ed McGuiness and Jason Martin with Justin Ponsor; Travis Charest and Richard Friend with Liquid!; Joe Chiodo; Adam Warren with Liquid!; Humberto Ramos and Sandra Hope with Liquid!; J. Scott Campbell and Richard Friend with Liquid!.]

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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