Ryan Ferrier, the man who brought us Tiger Lawyer, steps into the darker side of comic books with The Brothers James. Currently at issue #3, the series concerns a violent mission taken on by two brothers after a horrific tragedy. It’s an interesting combination of the brotherly repartee of Supernatural, and the biker gang violence of Sons of Anarchy. This isn’t a series for the timid, nor for those who look to comics for escapism through capes and cowls.
Issue #1 opens with a diner scene. A sweet waitress, a curmudgeonly short order cook, the Brothers James (Jack and John) and a gaggle of older bikers, loud and ornery. As the bikers drink, the brothers begin to plot their massacre. We’re not sure why they’re gunning for the bikers, but when the violence erupts, it is swift and harsh. Cue flashback. It’s 1982; a grizzled sheriff stands over a grim crime scene. Two people are a dead, a mother and father. Their children escaped the rain of bullets and grew up seeking vengeance. By the end of issue #1, the players of The Brothers James are in play.
The plot thickens with issue #2. Jack and John speed down a lonely highway as bikers beat their car with chains and bats. What’s gone wrong? Well, the James brothers ran afoul of some more biker thugs and, for reasons we’re not clued into, they throw one of them through a window. A chase ensues, a bloody, violent chase that ends with a car crash and a pretty girl. During all this chaos, the brothers manage to kill another elder biker responsible for their parents' deaths.
Heading into the third issue, things get weird. The girl who rescued the brothers now turns them over to her father, who’s a little pissed about their two-man war. Cloaked in dark robes, the father and his minions set about to burn The Brothers James alive. Suddenly, and quite surprisingly, the daughter blows her father’s brains out, along with his friends. Now, the war is on for two brothers and a biker daughter.
Overall, The Brothers James is a solid read. It might have some clichéd sections, but Ryan Ferrier’s writing helps it to avoid becoming dull. The key here are the characters. The brothers are different enough to be interesting and the girl is a nice enigma. Granted, the biker gang draws from standard biker gang ideas, but I’m hoping as the story develops the characters within the gang deepen.
Brian Level’s art is a big part of the success of The Brothers James. Black-and-white is like the tambourine in a rock band – not everyone can use it correctly. Level nails the shading, the strong lines and the heavy inks. He gives definition and weight to each character, and manages to communicate action without color. Across the board, an excellent showing from Brian Level.
Violence, bikes and more violence, The Brothers James is a visceral series that should be sought out.
(3.5 Story, 5 Art)