In “Help Us! Great Warrior” #1 by Madeleine Flores, the main character has no other name than Great Warrior, and that’s the first of many gleeful jokes about the heroic warrior stereotype. This type of extended subversion of the heroic warrior trope has been attempted before in many media, but Flores’ take still feels fresh and distinctive for its emphasis on cuteness and sloth. Instead of being muscular, male and ready for any challenge at any time, Great Warrior is cute, short, round, feminine and lazy.
The humor is goofy and whimsical in the same vein as the “Adventure Time” family of comics. Flores’ exposition introduces characters organically without any information dumps, and there are no slow moments.
The dialogue is enhanced by the lettering in the opening scene as Great Warrior awkwardly backs away from Hadiyah, and the physical humor of Flores’ body language is irresistible. The rest of “Help Us! Great Warrior” #1 is all in the same vein, but Flores keeps on finding surprising angles of humor in the situation. For instance, the matter-of-fact way that Great Warrior explains why she’s late to the party conjures up possible scads of past instances where Great Warrior has been inconvenienced before by unwanted summonses.
Flores’ art is as strong as her humor. The page where Great Warrior dives into the waters of an amethyst cave is gorgeous, and the near-silent sequence afterwards where Great Warrior encounters “Buckets” has a surprising twist that depends on Flores’ clever use of the gutters. The action sequences are vigorous. Flores plays deadpan, and her blow-by-blow panels are as exciting as those of any Kirby-influenced action scene, while the earnestness is belied by Great Warrior’s physique and worries about deodorant. Flores also doesn’t skimp on backgrounds and, in particular, the columns of smoke in the aftermath of battle are lovely, looking almost like aquatic plantlife.
The upbeat mood and tone depend heavily on colorist Trillian Gunn’s palette. Gunn’s use of candy pastels reinforces the ironies of Great Warrior’s gender and personality in the introductory scene but, later on, the forest is full of deeper earthy hues and she mixes bright colors from the birthday celebration with the dry tan and beige of the sands for the desert. There’s not a single panel where the art looks bad.
Flores focuses more on characterization and world-building than on plot advancement in this first issue. “Help Us! Great Warrior” #1 ends just as the villains show up. For a straight-up heroic fantasy, it would be better to get further into the rising action to create more suspense but, since “Help Us! Great Warrior” is a humor mini-series, the plot is going to track closely with reader’s expectations, and it is beside the point except as a springboard for jokes.
“Help Us! Great Warrior” #1 a great start to an all-ages comic. Its irony and adult-pleasing subversive humor are reminiscent of “Shrek” and other reworked fairy tales, while Great Warrior is cute and heroic enough in her own way to get any reader invested.