Battle Chasers by Joe Madureira and Munier Sharrieff
Battle Chasers was a groundbreaking fantasy comic book that emerged onto the comics scene in 1998, when independent comic publishers were finally giving the big two — DC and Marvel — a run for their money. Despite the sporadic release dates of Battle Chasers’ issues, the series won the hearts of many readers, only to disappear like a shooting star when Joe Madureira went on to pursue interests in the video gaming industry. I was one of those original fans, but as the wait between issues increased, I missed the final installments. So I recently purchased all nine comics in a digital omnibus edition which also includes an introduction and bonus material. Battle Chasers was intended to be an ongoing fantasy comic book series which centered on a quintet of characters:
Gully is the ten-year-old daughter of this world’s mightiest hero, Aramus. Now with Aramus gone missing, Gully is in possession of her father’s magic gauntlets that, when worn, give Gully incredible strength and invulnerability.
Garrison was once the most skilled swordsman of the elite guardians of the realm called the Paladins, and his oversized sword contains sorcerous powers. After the death of his wife, Garrison has become a drunk.
The cantankerous and grandfatherly Knolan is perhaps this world’s greatest wizard and also seems to be privy to secrets that could be a danger to all.
Calibretto may be the last of the golems, great automated war-machines, which were ordered to be dismantled after the war. Despite being a sort of robot, Calibretto has more humanity than most humans.
The voluptuous mercenary-thief Red Monika is as deadly as she is sexy.
Joe Madureira, a.k.a. Joe Mad, is an astounding storyteller with both his writing and illustration. The world of Battle Chasers is an exciting blend of the traditional medieval fantasy, science fiction, and just a dash of steampunk too. (In fact, when doing research for this review, I found Battle Chasers described by a term I did not know of before: arcanepunk.) It’s a place where magic and futuristic technologies co-exist. Fighters brandish flintlock firearms and bladed weapons. Clockwork automation is made possible for the few who have access to the rare element of mana to use as a power source. There are flying ships and beasts of burden, monsters and mythical creatures. Star Wars-like soldiers patrol outposts, while armored soldiers and knights make up the bulk of the armies. The graphic format is a great fit for this setting, and I can’t imagine it working so well in any other medium.
Battle Chasers takes all the fantasy and science fantasy clichés — and a few comic book ones too — and exaggerates them to the point that readers can’t help but lose themselves in the pure fun of it all. Madureira’s artwork seems heavily influenced by manga, which I’m not usually a fan of, but the bold lines and exaggerated features are a perfect match for this story. The action “Joe Mad” depicts is adrenaline-charged. All the archetypal characters are made even more endearing when portrayed in an almost caricature-like fashion: Gully looks like a Precious Moments waif, Calibretto an archaic cast iron blast furnace on legs. Warriors are over-muscled, swords are huge, other weapons and equipment are bulky. And Red Monika, well, let’s just say she has impossibly large… ah… “guns”? (I’m ashamed to admit it, especially at my age, but I think I’m in love with her.)
I absolutely adored this comic book series, and there were many other fantasy comic fans that did too. It broke my heart to see it end so abruptly. Please, Joe Mad, I beg you to return to comics and finish Battle Chasers.