Review – Briar #1 (BOOM! Studios)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Christopher Cantwell
Artist: Germán García
Colorist: Matheus Lopes
Letterer: AndWorld Design
Release Date: 28th September 2022
“I regret to inform you that the narrator of my fairy tale has died.”
On sale today from BOOM! Studios, Briar markets itself as a “post-apocalyptic retelling of Sleeping Beauty”, and while that’s certainly true, it’s also an elevator pitch that belies the sheer depth of fantasy world-building that co-creators Christopher Cantwell and Germán García bring to the table here.
In this version of the fable, our cursed princess – Briar Rose – remains fast asleep as the handsome prince opts to simply take the title of King and head off on a bloodthirsty crusade with young Briar’s father. One hundred years later, with the world fallen into decay and disrepair and monsters and cannibals roaming the land, a chance encounter awakens Briar from her slumber, sending her stumbling forth, retching and confused, into an unfamiliar world.
I love Cantwell, I love García and I definitely love me some dark fantasy, but good lord this was even better than I was expecting. I want to know literally everything about this story, and I want to know it now! Watching Briar take her first steps into this terrifying version of the world she once knew is truly mesmerising, and Cantwell’s beautifully eloquent prose and narration carries the story along with a heady blend of gravitas and black humour.
Briar herself is a fascinating protagonist. A spoiled, superficial but undeniably likeable princess who has her entire world turned upside down without having any say in the matter. There’s definitely a strong level of investment in her plight from the get-go, and watching her child-like innocence shattered and the roadmap of her life being torn up and thrown away in such a visceral way makes for a thoroughly gripping read.
García – who I previously sung the praises of with his stellar work on Marvel’s Ka-Zar of the Savage Land – feels like the perfect artist to bring this story to the page. His characters are wonderfully expressive, the action is handled fluidly and dynamically, and the design elements, including the strange new creatures and races that Briar encounters on her first steps into the world, are a real joy to behold. Mat Lopes does a similarly strong job on the colours, taking us from pastel-shaded fairytale to stark, unforgiving dystopia and helping to underscore the subtle shits in tone along the way.
I usually hate comparing new titles to other books, but there’s definitely shades of Si Spurrier and Mattias Bergara’s Coda at play here in terms of the tone, the deliciously eloquent writing and the scintillating visuals. However, it’s worth pointing out that Briar is still very much its own thing, and Cantwell and García do a tremendous job here of establishing the world we’re going to be exploring over the next three issues.
It’s definitely a good sign when the first issue of a comic is already an oversized thirty-two pages long and it’s still not even close to being enough to satisfy you. A triumph of world-building, scene-setting and dark fantasy excess, Briar takes the familiar and makes it unfamiliar, twisting the safe ‘happily every after’ world into something dark and deadly. Highest possible recommendation.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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