Though there have been craft beers named after comic books, Brian Azzarello, Nick Floyd and Simon Bisley’s “Alpha King” #1 just might be the first comic to be based on a microbrew. The 3 Floyds Brewing Company website describes the Alpha King brew as “bold” and “aggressive,” and the American Pale Ale’s comic book counterpart could certainly be described the same way. Floyd — one of the brewery’s founders — co-writes the first of this five-issue series with Azzarello, who brings a drunken swagger to the script, while Bisley works some attitude into the art with his warrior punk characters.
It’s a comic book staple for a normal joe to fall into a vat of chemicals, only to emerge strangely altered and far more powerful. In this story, the never-before asked question “What if a brewmaster fell into his own brew?” is given a very loud, otherworldly and over-the-top answer that’s just preposterous enough to not only entertain, but be downright and darkly hilarious. This comic truly is inspired by the tasty beverage it’s named after, and in fact reads like it’s consumed a pint or three for inspiration — it’s brash and boisterous and having a great time. Writers are often told to write what they know, and Floyd certainly fulfills that requirement; he knows all about hops and homebrews, while Azzarello confidently handles everything else.
The comic refers to itself as a “D&D epic” in its afterword, and — while that description might be a little self-grandiose in its reference to “Dungeons & Dragons” — it’s most definitely an epic on the order of “Drunk & Dismembered.” Floyd and Azzarello’s story easily qualifies as dark fantasy, and there’s no better artist than Bisley for drawing drunken demons and warriors bent on destruction and debauchery. There are plenty of vulgar and graphic sequences — one would expect no less from Bisley, after all — but he also brings a decided thud and blunder vibe to the story. His characters are GWAR-meets-“Road Warrior”: certainly not to be messed with, but not above a snicker or two, which keeps the story fun rather than grim.
Bisley revels in every decapitated head and shower of blood, starting with the issue’s grotesquely beautiful cover. Ryan Brown keeps the colors much darker than a pale ale, but then, there isn’t much bright about this otherworldly realm on the cusp of invasion or the confines of a garage-based home brewing operation.
Rob Syers’ crudely drawn, unrelated and seemingly pointless three-page backup story also makes a puzzling appearance here. However, its underground/alternative vibe strangely compliments the alternative nature of Floyd and Azzarello’s story — and Floyd’s own craft brews, for that matter.
Like the comic’s namesake brew, Floyd, Azzarello and Bisley craft a very unusual but oddly satisfying first: a comic book tie-in to an alcoholic beverage and an origin of sorts for the brewing company’s self-professed flagship beer. It’s safe to say no other beer has ever had an origin quite like “Alpha King” #1.