Over two decades ago, Dark Horse published Barb Wire’s first adventures in Steel Harbor. Now, “Barb Wire” #1 comes to readers from writer Chris Warner and artist Patrick Oliffe, who knock the dust off a character that is ready for a whole new generation of comic book readers to discover her.
Media and entertainment have shifted quite a bit in twenty years, and “Barb Wire” #1 acknowledges that with a reality show that follows Barb on her bail enforcement activities. Readers meet Barb and her supporting cast in the field, where Warner establishes some quick facts about Barb Wire, using the cast, Barb’s opponents and Barb herself to provide a quick checklist of bullet points for everyone to remember. Unfortunately, neither Warner nor letterer Michael Heisler name-check all of the characters throughout the book, so bullet points remain whereas proper names and connections are lacking.
The action in “Barb Wire” #1 is bold and fast-paced. Bar brawls and street fights show how serious the characters are about kicking ass, but just skim the surface of any sort of character development. The one character who feels the most thought out is Barb’s brother, Charlie, but that’s only by way of a visual gag.
That gag plays up Charlie’s blindness and showcases Oliffe’s storytelling. The artist keeps the story clean, but makes some odd choices in Barb’s fashion decisions (a see-through shirt with a black necktie tied like a scarf and a black bra underneath) and posture to objectify the character’s appearance, which just seems unnecessary as he sells the character’s attractiveness just fine when she’s at her desk, reeling from bills. Well-matched to Oliffe, Tom Nguyen seems to be the perfect inker, giving the artist’s lines weight and dimension. Nguyen works nicely with Oliffe’s penchant for detail, and the duo delivers some believable settings and scenery, including a nice shot of a motorcycle that is just packed with details. Colorist Gabe Eltaeb keeps the story bright when it needs to be and adds a slick layer of atmosphere to farther objects, nicely rounding out the visuals of this issue.
“Barb Wire” #1 is undoubtedly a deeper experience for readers familiar with the character, but a new number one issue should be more new reader friendly. That’s not to say Warner and crew don’t make this story memorable or inviting, but they don’t offer much by way of character depth or development and there is very little to draw new readers back. “Barb Wire” #1 knows its target audience and guns for them, but continued adventures certainly have ample opportunity to expand and invite.