March 22, 2014

Image Comics Review: The End Times of Bram and Ben

imageThe End Times of Bram and Ben
Writer: James Asmus, Jim Festante
Artist: Rem Broo
Publisher: Image

As a reviewer, I’m oftentimes drawn to creators as much as I am characters. The way I see it, if a writer/artist does a nice job keeping readers coming back on one book, odds are they’ll do an equally good job with their other titles. It was with that mindset that I initially approached The End Times of Bram and Ben, the co-creation of Quantum and Woody scribe James Asmus. The writer, along with fellow co-creators Jim Festante and Rem Broo, brings his well-honed wit to the end of the world, offering an uproarious view of religion that’s sure to leave certain sects sour-lemoning their mouths in disapproval. Packed with curses, shenanigans, and a number of “yeah, they went there” moments, this book is not for those without a sense of humor (or Kirk Cameron).

Set in a post-Rapture world in which the worthy have recently ascended to Heaven, The End Times of Bram and Ben chronicles the highs and lows of titular odd couple Bram and Ben as they navigate the world left behind. Bram, all bravado and charm and awfulness, is initially Raptured himself due to a “clerical error,” though it’s not long before those above realize he’s an asshole and send him back. His time amidst the clouds proves transformative in a most unexpected way, as rather than lament his missed shot at salvation, Bram instead returns and submits his candidacy for the role of Anti-Christ. Still with me? Good. The more mild-mannered Ben tries to keep Bram in check, determined to prove that his own failure to ascend was a mistake as he’s innately a “good person.” Lines are drawn, angels and demons are summoned, and a whole lot of souls are vanquished as the (non) dynamic duo do their best to stave off humanity’s extinction.

Writers Asmus and Festante offer an inspired take on the apocalypse, delivering an amusing and lovingly offensive narrative that will leave you in stitches. In Bram and Ben they have two uniquely flawed characters, one who knows and embraces his shortcomings, the other who can’t seem to get out of his own way. The two leads are played perfectly off one another, and despite their enormous differences in personality, they’re genuinely good for each other. The supporting cast is no less amusing, as everyone from the damned on Earth to the otherworldly combatants offer one-liners and double entendres with abandon. This book is truly one of those “everything but the kitchen sink” type affairs, as the range in content and humor is likely to strike a chord with pretty much anyone.

Also impressive is the writers’ ability to weave genuine social commentary into the narrative (in between poop jokes and sight gags). They manage to explore religion even as they tear it apart, subtly showcasing the wide ranging difference in belief, from the fanatical to the indifferent, the disillusioned to the devout. This is a funny book (hilarious, even), but there’s truth to it as well, a rare feat for a comic featuring decapitation by halo.

Speaking of hilarious, Rem Broo can draw some funny damn stuff. The artist absolutely nails the tone Asmus and Festante put forth, each page and panel a direct reflection of the book’s rampant humor. His elongated and cartoony style leads to some bang up visuals, especially when things go from bad to worse to we’re all gonna die. This may sound corny, but there’s a sense of FUN to the book, as if Broo is fully aware of the absurdity of that which he’s drawing and loves every minute of it. Many of the jokes are fully dependent on Broo’s visual interpretation, and I can say without hesitation that he completely delivers.

The End Times of Bram and Ben is the kind of book you didn’t know you needed but you’re so glad you picked up, a combination of smarts and snickers that’s satisfying in every way. To put it simply, End Times is ridiculously funny, and unless you don’t like laughing (you do, don’t you?) it’s a must read.

Jeff Lake



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