Sunday, February 18, 2018

Battle Chasers #1 (1998)

Battle Chasers #1 (April, 1998)
"The Most Dangerous Game"
Story - Joe Madureira & Munier Sharrieff
Pencils - Joe Madureira
Inks - Tom McWeeney
Colors - Liquid!'s Christian Lichtner & Aron Lusen
Letters - Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Letterer - Dave Lanphear
Editor in Chief - Scott Dunbier
Publisher - Jim Lee
Cover Price: $2.50

Welcome to our 750th Daily Discussion!

Was in the mood for something a little different today... and so, I turned to our pals at Wildstorm.  It's been awhile since we chatted up pre-DC-owned Wildstorm... so we're long overdue.

Today we're going to discuss the first issue of Battle Chasers... or as I knew it, the "dead cat bounce" of the comics speculator market.

It was 1998... and the worm had turned.  We no longer had to pay comic shops for the service of holding books for us... in fact, many of the remaining "boom" shops had turned to giving decent discounts for the privilege!  It was during this time that I figured I'd never have to actually "track down" a comic book ever again.

Then Battle Chasers happened.  This book vanished from the shelves just as quickly (and mysteriously) as it arrived!  The first time I actually read Battle Chasers was in trade paperback format... and, a trade I found in the 25-cent bin at that!  Didn't manage to find a copy of my own until... well, not too long ago.

Lucky for us (or, me) that I did... so, we can talk about it here today!


We open with an old man waking from a dream.  It seems to be of the recurring variety involving a condemned man in mystic armor... feeling searing heat.  This time, however, he couldn't see the faces of the (maybe) baddies.  He calls out for Calibretto... whoever that might be.  Elsewhere, at the same time... a young blonde girl is fleeing from something... while protectively clutching a small wooden box.

She looks behind her... and we can see just what she's been running from, lumbering red-eyed werewolves... or wolfmen, not sure if they transform or anything... let's just say lupine humanoids that walk on two legs.  Anyhoo, they want the box!

The girl refuses to hand over the loot, and so the wolves-men let decide to play a little cat-and-mouse with her... allowing her to run into the deserted city of Granok.  She rushes off into the flood-ruined town, and takes refuge in an abandoned house.  Doesn't take long for one of the beasties to discover her.

In attempt to defend herself, she grabs a nearby mattock.  The tool proves to be too heavy for her to lift... well, perhaps too heavy for anybody to lift, because the handle snaps in two!  Before the beastie can nab her, she jabs the broken off handle into its shoulder!  This gives her just enough time to git.

She runs right into a giant man wrapped in a mask and cloak... dropping the box right into his giant left mitt.  Fearing him a threat, she lashes out... 

... and so, he takes aim... and fires!  At a wolf-man, that is.  He's one of the good guys.

The rest of wolves-men surround our new friend... and he is then struck by lightning.  Wow, this just isn't his day, is it?  Anyhoo... the bolt fries his coverings, revealing him to be... well, a steampunk robot... a steambot (well, a Wargolem actually)!  Turns out he absorbed the lightning... and at this point, really needs to release it!

We shift scenes to the appropriately-named Vandalheim, a town swarming with ne'er-do-wells.  It's here that we meet a man named Garrison... as well as a woman named Monika... and her boobs.  Not a complaint, I don't claim to have any kind of moral high-ground when it comes to art, but it's definitely worth mentioning.  Anyhoo, she has an offer for Garrison, involving breaking a man called Ryon Del Soya out of the Skyhold Prison.

Gary refuses, preferring to sit and drink s'more.  She slaps the flagon out of his hand... and suggests he kill himself.  Wow, she don't mess around!

Back to the little blonde and her robot buddy.  They're hiding out in an abandoned wood shed... I guess we can assume they got away from the wolves-men.  We learn here that the girl's name is Gully... and she is the daughter of Aramus... a warrior believed to be dead.  The robot is Calibretto... the selfsame fella the old man called out for at the open!  They talk about planting flowers... and try to open the wooden box, without avail.

Gully also shares her secret origin... Trackers (hired to find Aramus) showed up at her home, and after transforming into beasts, murdered her Nanny.  She's been on the run ever since.

Elsewhere, we rejoin one of the surviving wolf-men... who checks in with a mysterious benefactor.  The wolf-man cites the Wargolem for their failure.  The shadowy man doesn't have time for excuses, and suggests he get back on the hunt... and not screw up again.

After she falls asleep, Calibretto brings Gully to the home of the old man, Knolan.  She wakes up, and shares her story.  We learn here that Knolan is a wizard... who is easily able to open that little wooden box.

We wrap up with the reveal of its contents... the Gauntlets of Aramus!


Well, this was a lot of fun!  Just the trick for a fella who might be facing a little bit of burn-out (don't tell nobody though!).

These days I often find myself too wrapped up in only reading things that "matter" as it pertains to an overall narrative of a shared universe, giving myself little opportunity to broaden my horizons... even if, by broadening, I mean revisiting something I'd already read.  I'm glad I took the day "off" from our regular superhero fare.

The story... well, it's an opening chapter, and as an opening chapter, it's a pretty good one!  We meet several members of our cast... and get just enough backstory and mystery to keep us (or me) engaged.  Our cast of characters is likable enough... and, perhaps more importantly, instantly recognizable.  I don't think I'll forget these folks anytime soon.

This brings us to the designs.  I love 'em!  I'm sure there'll be some folks (probably the ones who use the phrase "present year" without irony) who'll have a problem with Monika's... assets... but whattayagonnado?  It's a striking character design... and, in the Battle Chasers universe doesn't stand out as being too outrageous (that's not to say it isn't outrageous... it's just not too outrageous, ya dig?).  Most of the designs here are just archetypes ratcheted up "to eleven".  I think they're pretty great regardless!

I guess design brings us to art.  And, I mean... what can I say besides "Wow!"?  This is a gorgeous book.  Pencils, inks, colors... the entire package, it's just amazing!  An absolute treat... the production quality here makes my head hurt... it's just so top-notch.

I feel like when people think back to Battle Chasers, one of the things that stands out is... the delays!  This book was very delayed... which only added to the excitement for every release.  At least, at first.  I remember Wizard Magazine making a lot of jokes that Joe Mad was too busy playing whichever Final Fantasy game was currently out for him to work on his next issue.  Whether that's true or not... well, twenty years later (jeeeeeez), I suppose it doesn't really matter.  Worth mentioning (and sort of on that note)... the most recent Battle Chasers bit is... there's a video game?!  That's unexpected, right?  Well, maybe not entirely if what Wizard kept saying was true, right?

Overall... this was a real treat... and oddly enough, just what I needed today.  Well worth tracking down any way you can... for your convenience, it is available digitally.  Before we go... you might have noticed, the cover doesn't have the Battle Chasers logo on it... that's because it was a wrap-around... and the BC logo wound up on the back.  Here it is in all its glory:


(Not the) Letters Page:


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