The End Times of Bram and Ben #1 (of 4)
Written by James Asmus & Jim Festante
Pencils by Rem Broo
Colors by Overdrive Studios
Created by James Asmus, Jim Festante, & Rem Broo
Review by Joey Braccino
With The End Times of Bram and Ben, James Asmus and Jim Festante parody everything holy about the Apocalypse and its aftermath (as described in the Book of Revelations). Literally. Everything holy. Biblical and otherwise. In the very first sequence, our “heroes,” Bram and Ben, experience the Rapture and the sinful Bram is accidentally sent up to Heaven. Bram is returned to Earth and, armed with news of what Heaven is really like, he and Ben try to make sense of the End Times.
Comedian and comics writer James Asmus (Gambit, Generation Hope) and comedian/actor/writer Jim Festante pull no punches with their irrevent script. Replete with intentionally offensive language and deliberately antagonistic commentary on religion, End Times is targeted at a very particular audience. In a cultural climate where the Apocalypse is associated 9 times out of 10 with zombies and/or grim and grey dystopias, Asmus and Festante explore the end of the world from a fresh and fascinating perspective. The story maintains its Biblical moorings, but does so with an abundance of sophomoric and satirical humor. The book contains naked old people, sexual innuendo, the fetishization of pretty much everything, and much, much more. I repeat, End Times is targeted at a very particular audience. Probably male. And mostly those not offended by the flippant usage of borderline sexist or homophobic slurs.
Bram and Ben aren’t exactly sympathetic protagonists; with the coming of the End Times, Bram suggests stealing resources from their Raptured neighbors and sleeping with as many nameless women as possible. Granted, Bram isn’t exactly supposed to be our moral compass, but Asmus and Festante don’t exactly do Ben’s any favors either (speaking as an educator, I nearly put this book down when Ben, a purported Special Education teacher, calls a character a “retard” on page 1).
I get the irreverence. I get the innuendo. I get the concept. I’m glad we can be post-modern about religion and use parody to explore the Rapture from a Pop culturally conscious perspective. I just wish we could do it without resorting to unrelated, inflammatory derogatory content. Of course, it is issue #1, and Bram and Ben still have a lot of growing up to do, so I’ll hold out my hope for Asmus and Festante to turn our crude characters into smarter, more aware heroes.
From an artistic standpoint, Rem Broo is a godsend. The care and effort Broo has put into the book over the last year (see next paragraph) truly shows as he blends the styles of Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba, Skottie Young, and Nick Bradshaw. The exaggerated naturalism in the linework perfectly toes the line between realism and cartoon, which in turn perfectly mirrors the humorous style of the script. Newcomer Rem Broo puts together an absolutely gorgeous first issue for End Times that runs the gamut from action to conversation, decompression to two-page spreads, and, literally, Heaven to Hell.
Finally, on a behind-the-scenes, comics-industry level, End Times is yet another example of a fresh, creator-owned comics story published by Image Comics. Furthermore, James Asmus and Jim Festante paid their artist, Remus Broo, for nearly a year through the magic of Kickstarter. More and more comics artists are turning to Kickstarter to fund their projects during the developmental stages, and more and more creators in general are turning to Image to put out their back-wall, off-the-wall stories.
I’ll say “Buy It,” but I’m definitely going to include a disclaimer. There’s a lot of material in this book that will offend some readers. Whether it’s the religious parody, the derogatory language, or the juvenile antics, End Times of Bram and Ben might rub some readers the wrong way. Or it might make you roll on the floor laughing. Or both! Regardless, Asmus, Festante, and Broo construct a fresh take on the Post-Apocalypse comic, and they wear their irreverent intentions on their sleeves throughout.