BARBARIC #1/ Script by MICHAEL MORECI/ Art by NATHAN GOODEN/ Colors by ADDISON DUKE/ Letters by JIM CAMPBELL/ Design by TIM DANIEL/ Published by VAULT COMICS
Owen was a warrior born to travel a red road of blood and thunder. His life was a simple one, devoted to drinking, fighting and wenching – not necessarily in that order. He wanted little and expected less, but he was proud to say he kneeled to no priest, nor king, nor god. That was before the witches came and offered him a choice; accept their curse or be sent to Hell forever!
Now Owen finds himself doubly cursed; first because he may do no harm to others except in self-defense or in the name of good, and then because his axe now speaks and instructs Owen on just what is “good.” And the axe’s definition of “good” does not involve crushing enemies, driving them before you or hearing the lamentations of women, save if those lamentations contain specific requests for help. Thankfully, there is no shortage of evil people whose blood Owen is permitted to shed, but Owen is about to be dragged into another quest by another witch that will leave him wishing he’d just gone to Hell.
I must admit my hopes were not high going into Barbaric #1, despite many people whose opinions I trust proclaiming this to be the best new comic of 2021. While I am a big fan of sword-and-sorcery in general, I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of the material produced for the genre has little thought behind it beyond “more blood, more boobs!” Given that one of the variant covers for this book depicts “The Witch” wearing nothing but what the gods gave her while displaying a tattooed body impressively devoid of hair from the eyebrows down for a woman from a land before time and bikini waxing, I think it fair to say my cynicism might be merited.
Thankfully, it was not.
Barbaric #1 proves to have have the same ready wit and satirical edge as Mark Russell’s Red Sonja and Jim Zub‘s Conan the Barbarian. Beyond that, there are also many scenes of bloody violence and uncovered breasts, if that is your chief concern. Michael Moreci’s script does not forget for a moment what type of tale it is meant to be telling and while there is humor aplenty to be found in this book, there is also flowery prose that evokes the spirit of Robert E. Howard.
The artwork proves to be forged of equally strong stuff. Nathan Gooden’s artwork is intricately detailed, yet crystal clear and his action sequences flow from panel to panel like the blood spurting from the severed limbs of Owen’s enemies. The colors by Addison Duke fade and ebb in subtle ways, with crimson tints punctuating the action and gentle fades indicating the flashbacks. The lettering by Jim Campbell is also of high quality.
Barbaric #1 is the best new comic of 2021 and a must-read for all fans of fantasy and action comics. Even if you do not fancy yourself a fan of those comics where wild warriors in impractical armor run amok, there is much in this series and its defiance of genre expectations to win you over. For the rest of us, there’s a sarcastic talking axe who literally thirst for blood and gets drunk on it. Truly a comic with something for everybody!
Barbaric #1 releases on June 30, 2021.