The first issue in a new ongoing series, Firebreather #1 is not the first time Duncan Rosenblatt has every graced the panels of Image Comics. Sporting his own graphic novel by the same handle, creators Phil Hester and Andy Kuhn claim they have been at it since that book’s release in 2005. Three years later, we have the beginning of something special.
Directly from the back of the issue: "'Hey, when are you doing more Firebreather?’…that’s a question Andy Kuhn and I have been asked countless times since 2005…The answer is, we never stopped. The engine’s been idling, the motor’s warm.” So there you have it. This baby’s been kicking around in the creator’s heads since the original graphic novel’s inception.
All that time makes for a book that contains some surprisingly promising material. Within the first installment, readers are (re)introduced to Duncan and his troubles. Duncan is the half-breed son of an ancient dragon and a normal, human woman. His mother wants him to lead a standard life, while his father wants him to take his seat on the throne his father currently possesses. His father is the king of all monsters, and most of this issue covers the intensive training Duncan goes through with his father. Where it leaves readers at the end is the best part of the ride. Duncan is left on the threshold of life at midnight of his 16th birthday. Will he ascend to take his father’s place as the king of monsters, or will he bail and lead the normal life?
What drives readers from panel to panel and page to page in this book will likely be a toss-up, case by case scenario. Most will come for the writing. Hester does a wonderful job of characterization within the first issue. Each speaker has a clear personality that becomes evident after the first or second spoken line. The personalities are so defined, in fact, that when a character is speaking off panel there is never any question as to who it is. Aside from the clear personalities, Hester’s writing is entertaining to boot.
If not for the writing then, obviously, for the art. Firebreather is a strange book when it comes to art. Kuhn and Crabtree provide a unique pallet of looks and feels throughout the book. The only portion that remains questionable throughout is the panel layout. Sometimes the positioning of panels is downright wonky and awkward. At other times it looks just fine. The pencils themselves are unique but not excessively odd. Akin to those found in books like Invincible, the illustrations here are simplistic in nature. Where it definitively lacks is in the color. Crabtree’s work by no means looks amateur, but the colors remain pale and weak throughout. The book seems like it should be more vibrant, but instead readers are left with a more washed-out look.
In the end, this book will almost certainly be the start of something fantastic. Hester and Kuhn will hopefully provide readers with the service they deserve, but so far fans of Firebreather will be happy with this one. As a reader whom is new to the character, I’m really excited for the directions this one will take. Pick it up if you’re looking for something new.
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