“Blood Brothers” #1
Hermanos de Sangre! In a world where seemingly anything is possible, can two detective brothers work against the odds to solve a murder at the museum, and the theft of a haunted skull? Read our review to find out! Contains mild spoilers.
Written by Fabian Rangel jr
Illustrated by Javier Caba
Lettered by Ryan Ferrier
Logo by Dylan Todd
Diego and Gabriel Soliz are two unusual brothers just trying to do their job in an even more unusual city. What’s their job? They’re detectives in a city populated by creatures from mythology and fantasy. When an Aztec skull is stolen from the museum, the BLOOD BROTHERS are assigned to the case!
With “Blood Brothers” #1, the devil is very much in the details. Specifically, the densely populated world filled with all manner of fantasy beasts thanks to Javier Caba’s superbly detailed artwork. From the barstools at Sid’s Pub to the desks in the local police precinct, Caba’s knack of creating instantly engaging background characters draws you into this universe in a way that elevates the entire book. The burden of this responsibility is heaviest on Caba, due to the fact that the cast that Fabian Rangel is giving voice to seem be either used to such wondrous creations around them, or completely uninterested; a fact that only serves to make the world of the Hermanos de Sangre all that more normal.
The titular brothers are Diego and Gabriel Soliz; the former a disillusioned, heavy drinking, heavily scarred detective, the latter his stern, dedicated and more responsible brother tasked with bringing Diego under control and focused on the case. Diego, while drinking at Sid’s, laments that there was ‘nothing unusual’ about his day, while surrounded by a myriad of goblins, demons, ogres, mythical warriors, and being served his drinks by a cyclops. It’s this dichotomy between words and art where most of the charm lies, for there’s not a single word that alludes to the strange and limitless world they inhabit, and yet that visual storytelling builds on the script and adds a charm that’s unique to “Blood Brothers.”
Pretty soon the brothers are drawn into a murder mystery involving a theft of an ancient Aztec skull, one that holds a curse as well as an unexpected connection to the Hermanos themselves. It’s a fun setup, one that hearkens back to Saturday morning cartoons or pulp novellas, but there’s an added depth to the protagonists that will no doubt be explored as the mystery deepens. “Blood Brothers” #1 started as a Kickstarter campaign last year before moving to Dynamite, and it was even clear back then that Rangel and Caba have big plans for this world. Indeed, this tale, ‘The Case of the Missing Skull’ already feels like the first of many adventures.
Being structured around a classic mystery like it is, it’d be easy to settle into a comfortable, familiar groove with “Blood Brothers.” While the comparisons to many sources from Scooby Doo to Venture Bros are evident, every so often Rangel will throw in a tidbit, a character beat or a tease of something greater that hints at a larger story. Just how Diego got the scars on his face is presented as a flashback to his time in an unspecified war, although no more details are given. Likewise, the general public seem to be recovering from something called The Break, a seemingly traumatic event that again is not yet divulged. Rangel is happy to leave it’s ambiguity to hang in the air, haunting his narrative. It’s details like this that lend “Blood Brothers” #1 a noir edge, if setting if not in form. A nation recovering from war; a flawed, broken protagonist; a simple crime that leads to a deeper mystery; these are all noir tropes utilised effectively by Rangel to increase that almost subconscious level of familiarity with the setting and culture of the world.
Caba’s art is a wonderful treasure trove of detail. There are almost insignificant characters that could flesh out spin-offs all of their own; characters like the Lion police officer calmly taking a statement from an upset member of the public; the half-eagle, half-man in Sid’s Pub chalking up their pool cue for the next shot; or the hooded insectoid creature at the back of that same bar, drinking a glass of what looks like milk, quietly surveying the scene. Gabriel Soliz himself is designed as a luchador, offered without explanation (none is needed,) and the style of the various characters – not the species, but the clothing – is consciously striking throughout. There’s a post-war touch to the fashion, both in clothing and vehicles, that again lean into the noir influences, all of which build up a rich tapestry of a fully established world, one that we’re merely dropping in on.Continued below
There are a couple of standout moments of visual storytelling, the first and most interesting being the manifestation of Diego’s ‘gift.’ The accident that caused his facial scars altered his vision in his right eye, so that he can see the after effects of events (like footprints – handy for a detective) and talk to ghosts around him to help him solve mysteries. Caba illustrates this as bright blue, spiritual auras that manage to look unusual even in a world with eagle-men playing pool. Another page depicts the sordid history behind the stolen Aztec skull, the object itself hovering in the centre of the page, soaked in red, each of the four surrounding panels divided by jagged borders and containing an unnatural hue. It’s a striking page drawn straight from pulp novellas and efficiently painting a picture of a violent past that could believably curse the stolen artefact.
“Blood Brothers” #1 is telling a story that is equal parts noir, pulp adventure and murder mystery, one that’s soaked in fantasy, mythology and sci-fi with a rich Mexican flavor. Rangel and Caba have created a world with an unexpected depth and and a level of character design emphasised with a fun and unique visual flair. The Hermanos de Sangre could easily be coming to a Saturday morning cartoon near you, as well as run through dozens of volumes of adventures. For now, however, we’re gifted with a strong debut issue that’s fun and approachable, one that grabs the reader and neatly sets up what’s to come.
Final Verdict: 8.6 – A great start to what will hopefully be the first of many adventures.