Writer: Christopher Cantwell
Art: German Garcia and Matheus Lopes
Letters: AndWorld Design
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Release Date: September 28th, 2022
Briar #1 kicks off a new ultra-dark fantasy mini-series, a tale of a Snow White-style princess who is cursed to sleep. But what if the prince never kissed her to wake her up, but left her sleeping, marrying her and seizing control of her kingdom? It’s a violent blood-soaked variation of a legendary fantasy tale and it begins here!
Briar #1 begins in a magical sunlit world, but quickly flashes to the future, where the world has turned into a horrific scorched Earth landscape. Briar Rose, a princess living a perfect life in her kingdom with seven godmothers (a reference to the seven dwarves?) when she accidentally pokes her finger, enacting a curse and putting her into a deep sleep. The rest of the issue veers off from the Snow White story, as her path takes a tragically different course, and she finally awakens a 100 years later to a decimated kingdom in ruins.
If you’re expecting a heroic fantasy tale akin to Red Sonja and Conan, think again, this is pure horror. Sure, we get some sword fighting and various exotic and grotesque creatures from other lands pop up, but the last 75% of the book is a blood-soaked nightmare, as Briar, corpse-like and withered from being asleep for a century, staggers through the remnants of her kingdom, and gets into one brutal encounter after another.
The only other sympathetic character in the book is Spider, an “Iceblood” woman from the north, who’s equally adept at problem-solving as she at combat. There are a lot of good plot elements set up in this first issue: Spider and Briar’s developing friendship, Briar trying to discover what happened over the 100 years she was asleep, and a new prophecy of doom with Briar at its center. I hope we get to see more of what happened with Rodion (the man who refused to awaken Briar and took over the kingdom), simply because he’s such a colossal jerk, that I want to see how everything fell apart for him.
Briar and Spider make a good duo. Briar still has a small amount of optimism and hope, which Spider constantly tries to shut down. The pair remind me of Xena and Gabrielle from the “Xena, Warrior Princess” show, and it’ll be fun watching them on their journey. My only problem with this first issue is that there’s no goal, no endgame for Briar and Spider. They just seem to go from one danger to another, wandering about. Perhaps next issue there will be a quest for them, something to achieve that will transform the kingdom back to its golden age.
German Garcia and Matheus Lopes’s art on Briar #1 is a very sketchy style that takes getting used to. There’s just enough detail to make the characters and situations clear, but their style doesn’t really fit the story as well as some other artists’ work would have. Their panel layouts are straight-forward and move the pacing along well, but the fight scenes come off a bit blurry. Perhaps their art will grow on me over the next three issues.
Briar #1 mixes horror and fantasy to mostly good effect. Briar and Spider are interesting characters and make a great duo, but the book needs more focus on an end goal. There was a bit too much stumbling around this issue, but hopefully the story will be tighter and more focused over the next three issues.