After an absence of nearly a decade, “Herobear and the Kid Special” #1 brings Mike Kunkel and his most famous creation back to the new comic book racks with a new story and a whole lot of fun. Printed in grayscale with red spot-coloring throughout, this comic book feels like a collection of energetic sketches generated by hands that manage to transform learning opportunities into entertainment vehicles — you know, doodles from a school notebook.
The biggest difference is that Kunkel’s doodles are more developed and significantly more sequential than anything you’d pick up from the discarded notebooks clogging landfills and recycling bins at the end of the academic year. Kunkel’s characters move across the page and frequently through the panel, like motion-after images made famous in action-packed superhero comic books. The biggest difference is that Kunkel’s figures aren’t simply ghosts filling the path of motion, but actual frames of thought, speech and action juxtaposed to illustrate progress and cultivate story. Everything you need to know about Herobear, the Kid and their world is right here.
Kunkel keeps the story briskly moving, but fills the twenty-seven pages of story from top to bottom. There is plenty of artwork and story for readers to submerge into, either absorbing the story or ingesting the artwork. Tyler (a.k.a. “The Kid”) narrates the story when the pacing necessitates such, giving the story a “Wonder Years” vibe, despite the fact that I don’t quite hear Daniel Stern’s voice for this adventure. The narrative caption boxes are where this story struggles the most, which is not to say they’re a problem, they’re simply the weakest link in a very strong chain. Kunkel’s placement of the captions isn’t always perfect, nor does he always tightly follow the flow of the imagery. Of course by not following the imagery flow, Kunkel doesn’t block any of the imagery, giving the artwork plenty of room to breath and grow.
In much of the artwork, you can see the origins of the images with gestural strokes peeking through here and there. The cartoon-heavy style Kunkel uses absorbs those strokes nicely and transforms them into kinetic energy, helping to propel the art and invigorate the story. It helps that Herobear’s cape is the only color in the book as there is simply so much motion and animated excitement in “Herobear and the Kid Special” #1. Color would brighten things up, but it would also neutralize some of the raw energy Kunkel puts on the page.
Every so often, BOOM! And KaBOOM! uncover or develop a gem that perfectly encapsulates everything fans claim to want in their comics. In the “Herobear and the Kid Special” #1, we get exciting, fun all ages adventure well worth the price of admission and almost worth the wait. Welcome back, Mike Kunkel, Tyler and Herobear.