Bully Wars #1 is the Best Saturday Morning Cartoon You Never Watched
by Tony Thornley
Skottie Young has built up a reputation in the comics industry for telling high energy, colorful fantasy stories. In his latest series, he teams up with Aaron Conley, Jean-Francois Beaulieu, and Nate Piekos to tell a story that’s a little more grounded in Bully Wars #1, but obviously just as fantastic as his past work.
Rottenville, USA, is a mid-size city with an interesting quirk – it has the highest number of bullies per capita in the nation. Spencer, Edith and Ernie are a trio of friends who have enduring the tortures of Rufus Ruffhouse growing up, but face a new challenge entering high school. Rufus unfortunately discovers that being the best bully in middle school means nothing as he becomes the Bullied! Fortunately for him, Spencer has a plan to make things better for him AND Rufus!
I grew up in a golden era of Saturday morning cartoons. Young here is clearly trying to evoke a similar feeling. Rottenville is at once familiar, but also has a sense of magical realism that classics evoked. It’s a vivid setting, and a very fun world.
The characters here are archetypes, but Young does a lot of make it clear that they’re much more. Spencer is both the leader and the brains of the bunch. Ernie is a sympathetic dummy. Edith is the sassy one. Rufus is clearly the bad guy…Then Young flips the script.
In the course of 25 pages, he has a lot of fun turning Rufus from a villain to a sympathetic protagonist, though he’s clearly still not a good guy. It’s evident the story has a lot more twists like that. I’m on board for it.
Conley is a perfect companion to Young’s script. Hearing that someone as distinctive as Young is writing a series comes with a certain expectation for the art. Conley’s style is very similar to Young’s, but he’s not an imitator or rip off. He breathes his own life into the page.
There’s a lot of energy and detail in the page. There’s something happening at all times, even if the characters are standing still and talking. Even the backgrounds are engrossing, with a level of care that rewards close inspection.
Beaulieu’s colors are bright, and sunny, despite the horrible place they are set. It’s really the binding element that brings it all together in the end.
Pieko’s letters bring Young’s words to life. Though his font is pretty standard, he plays a lot with the placement of balloons that adds to the sense of motion in the art. He also has a ton of fun with the smaller sound effects.
All together, this is a fantastic all-ages read. I’m definitely going to be checking this series out more in the future!
Bully Wars #1 is available now from Image Comics!