In the second issue of Michael Moreci and Nathan Gooden’s Barbaric, following the bloody and fateful introduction to this series, we get more backstory on the mysterious necromancer known as Soren. Along with Owen and his blood-drinking Axe, Soren is going to have to return to her roots in order to save the land from the unfathomable evil that has taken root. But first: a drink!
Once again, this book is bursting with inventive gags, from clever wordplay and twists on mythology to full-on supernatural slapstick. A moment in which a bunch of ghosts smack into a magic bubble and their faces are squished against the side might be the loudest I’ve laughed at a comic in a while. Likewise, Axe’s disappointment at the discovery that ghosts are not, in fact, filled with delicious blood elicited a chuckle from me. Two issues in, this book has already cemented a terrifically kooky identity that is very much its own.
Gooden makes the expansive settings feel extra cinematic, cleverly leaving some background elements out of focus and bringing the reader’s eyes directly to the action. And boy, what action it is. Limbs are getting lopped off and heads are getting smashed, but the dead just keep coming. There are also some neat touches that play with the medium here and there, including a few pages where Soren’s robes blow in the breeze and breach the edges of the panel.
Addison Duke’s colors make the magic look extra eerie, bathing several panels in sickly green glows. The set pieces here feel appropriately fantastical, but also markedly different from the fights in the first issue, which involved decidedly flesh-and-blood foes.
Meanwhile, Jim Campbell’s lettering is exquisite, fulling cementing the book as a worthy part of the sword and sorcery set. The off-kilter dialogue balloons and the dog-eared narration scrolls give an authenticity and roughness to the storytellers, while the jagged and curiously-phrased sound effects call to mind classic Marvel Conan and Red Sonja comics.
Aside from Soren’s flashback, there’s some exciting world-building threaded throughout this second issue. Axe and Owen hint at some of their past exploits, including a story about a would-be warlord in a barrel of snakes and an implication that Axe may have had a life before they became an instrument of death. All of this is done so cleanly and cleverly, enriching the characters and never distracting from the main story. The exposition is always delivered during action or in the service of accomplishing something in the moment, so it never feels like the story actually has to halt for it.
There’s also a truly brilliant take on necromancy in this issue, which explores the idea that people and animals aren’t the only things that can be resurrected. In true Barbaric fashion, Owen has no time for Soren’s explanation, which makes the introduction to this concept both a clever idea and the set-up for a great character bit. Moments like these truly set Barbaric apart from other books of its ilk.
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