Title: Bear Serum
Author: Kyle Fleischhacker
Publisher: Kyle Fleischhacker an Independent Author
Genre: Science Fiction, Military Science Fiction, Graphic Novel
Release Date: May 8, 2020
Today’s post features Bear Serum a new graphic novel by Kyle Fleischhacker released today May 8th, 2020. I received a free PDF ARC (advanced reader copy) for a sponsored review on my blog. It is a stand-alone story and not part of a pre-existing series as far as I know. Receiving a copy for free and being sponsored to review this graphic novel do not influence my review and all opinions are my opinion of this story at the time of writing.
The story takes place in a future of indeterminate distance. Technology has advanced to the point that humans no longer need smartphones because they have “mental chips” embedded into their brains which serve the function of smartphones. At several points, the story is even interrupted by “push notifications” of news or story relevant information which I think is a nice touch. The Earth was invaded, and humans had to flee to a new planet and integrate with the existing natives in order to survive. To fight the invaders of Earth long enough to survive, humans developed a super-soldier Bear Serum, which transforms human beings into super-strength bear-human hybrids.
The story arc loosely follows the last soldier to be turned into a bear as gene experiments are continued by the warmongering general who saved humanity long after they have settled on their new world. Another arc of the story follows The Mayor’s Daughter and the leader of the alien rebel group “Death 9”. The group’s name is Death 9, not the rebel leader. The actions of the rebel leader and The Mayor’s Daughter, lead to unnecessary civil unrest and fear, while the general tries to use The Bear to stop what they are doing.
I liked the concept of this graphic novel. I’m a huge fan of Shifter Romance (I may have mentioned that one or a dozen times on this blog) and it was fascinating to see a new twist on the whole transformation idea even if it wasn’t romance. The pacing of the story was such that I never got bored with it despite being a little frustrated with the plot.
My favorite thing about the main character is that he is not that bright (in my opinion). I know, it’s a terrible cliché. But he was the quintessential unflattering stereotype of the unquestioning soldier. In a way, he wasn’t really a character so much as a vehicle for providing information and revealing the nature of the society and its problems as created in this book. Like the main character’s dim-witted nature, the world is vague, two conflicting cultures careening from one event to another caused by a few key political figures toward a social disaster just waiting to happen.
Of the supporting characters, I HATE The Mayor’s Daughter. She makes poor, poor personal choices for selfish stupid reasons. Her choices lead to civil unrest and police brutality against the indigenous population because of lies told on her behalf. The actions taken to protect her are blamed on the general. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a kind of a horrible mad scientist and should definitely be incarcerated for his crimes, but The Mayor’s Daughter is just a horrible human being (in my opinion). At least the general has the delusion that he’s working for the betterment and protection of humanity.
Things that I disliked about the story? The flow of the book is choppy to me. Events in the plot don’t always make sense as a cohesive whole until the end and it felt at times like I was reading a flash fiction anthology presented as one book. The art style is also highly stylistic. Anyone with difficulty seeing either shapes or colors may have trouble interpreting the images in the black and white version, which is what I read.
There isn’t much to dislike about the main character as you don’t learn enough about him to become emotionally invested. He’s a soldier doing his duty. Then he’s a bear following orders. Like I mentioned earlier, the main character is mainly a device to relay the rest of the story. Like you are reading an epic as told by someone adjacent to the main players but not actually one of them.
The supporting characters, or at least the characters most central to the plot who aren’t the bear this story is about, are The Mayor’s Daughter and the alien rebel leader of Death 9. I hate them both. Initially, I was rooting for The Mayor’s Daughter. I thought she was going to be a typical damsel in distress for the main character to rescue. But no, no she’s just as selfish and lazy, and power-hungry as anyone else in the politics of this world and I disliked her greatly. The leader of Death 9 isn’t much better, using terrorism to hurt human civilians who are just trying to get along with his species and hurting the cause for his people all around.
I’m rating this book 4 stars, and here on my blog, I’m rating it DD for Delights Delilah. Even though I did nitpick a few things about the book and I didn’t become invested in the main characters themselves, I became heavily invested in the fate of humanity. Would the humans and the aliens they were cohabiting with ever get along? Would the politicians and general and terrorists ever sit down, make peace, and do the right thing? Would the aliens that humanity had fled Earth to escape come and destroy both the humans and the indigenous population of this planet, amusingly named Green Rock?
So while I was occasionally underwhelmed by the art (because my slightly colorblind eyes had trouble seeing it), and at times had trouble following the story, I did still want to follow the story. I also would have loved to have read the story of the invasion of Earth and the development of the Bear Serum and the soldiers fighting the war. That seems like it would have been epic. Also, and I’m talking to you Kyle Fleischhacker, there better be a sequel because…the way it ended…
Bear Serum is a wandering story of humanity that will keep you wondering if we can survive ourselves until the very last page.
This graphic novel is available starting today May 8th:
To see more incredible art work by Kyle Fleischhacker check out his YouTube channel.
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