Caught My Eye: Firebreather

Guest Post

With this review, you may notice a little pattern with the comics that catch my eye. I suffer from a little-known affliction called “glutton for good comics.” Once I find a topic or creator that interests me, I can’t move on to another until that hunger is satisfied. The current creator that has me occupied is Phil Hester.

In my last review, I checked out the comic Thirteen Steps, written by Phil Hester and Chuck Satterlee. That introduced me to Hester’s writing ability, where before I had only known his art. I was pretty impressed with the different type of story it was and wanted to see what else he had up his sleeve. I went to Wizard World Texas in November and saw that he had a book called Firebreather, and I couldn’t wait to check it out.

Firebreather is a creator-owned book that Phil Hester and Andy Kuhn worked on together. Until I discovered this series, Andy Kuhn wasn’t really known to me (but I’m not the most knowledgeable on various creators yet). I will say that I’ll be following him a little more now since I’m a fan of the style he draws in. If you’re not familiar with his work, his most recent projects include Blue Beetle, Brit, Hulk and Power Pack, and Marvel Team Up. What I like about his style, and others who draw similarly, is that it’s a cartoony look that is not overly realistic, but at the same time not kid stuff either. I really don’t have the comic technical vocabulary to describe it, but it’s my favorite type of comic art.

Moving on to the actual comic, what makes Firebreather stand out to me is the type of story it is. I put it in the same realm as Invincible in that it’s largely character driven and really gets the reader to sympathize with the characters. The general plot follows a teenager named Duncan who is half human and half dragon. Don’t dwell on it too much, or it will unravel pretty quickly. His dad is basically king of the monsters and wants his son to follow in his footsteps, while his mother wants him to live a normal life. How is that relatable, you wonder? Well, despite the larger-than-life plot, the story picks up with Duncan trying to fit in at school. Because of his obvious looks, he can never fit in at any school. This key point of the story is what really hooked me. I have never read any other comic where the anguish of high school is depicted so well. I imagine anyone who reads this series will really connect with Duncan.

The reason for Duncan’s school hopping is due in part to the custody battle he is caught in between his mom and dad. The fact that the dad is a huge monster really works for the book and helps to include other supporting characters. Essentially, since his dad is a huge force of destruction, the U.N. is involved in mediation between the mom and dad. Like I said, don’t pull the strings too hard – just run with it.

This book’s strength lies in the characters’ personal interactions. Like I said, the parts involving Duncan at school really grabbed me since I felt a strong parallel with my own experiences. Each time I read a book where the writer really does a great job of giving voice to the kids who didn’t have this picture-perfect time in high school, I really stop and take notice. If you ever felt out of place or felt hopeless, this comic really drives the point home that it never is as bad you thought and that others probably have it worse than you.

I also need to clarify that this series is currently not an ongoing, but was a mini series and a single graphic novel. The mini series is collected in Firebreather Vol 1, and the graphic novel is called Firebreather: The Iron Saint. I’ve also gotten word from Phil Hester that the series will start back up as an ongoing sometime in 2008. If you’re a fan of fun comics with a lot of heart, I highly recommend you check it out. I would also like to thank both Phil Hester and Andy Kuhn for being such stand-up guys. If you’re a fan of either of their work, shake off your fanboy phobias and go talk to them. They’re two very kind individuals who have no qualms when it comes to talking to fans.

Firebreather and Firebreather: The Iron Saint
Writer: Phil Hester
Art and Letters: Andy Kuhn
Colors: Bill Crabtree
Image Comics
Released 2003 & 2004