In the closing chapter of Barbaric‘s first story arc, Owen and Axe find themselves overwhelmed by the forces of a dangerous necromancer. Will our heroes literally have to go to hell and back? And will it be totally awesome? The answers to both are a resounding yes.
The action scenes in this issue are absolutely bonkers, taking advantage of each character’s abilities in unexpected ways. One of the highlights is a delightful bit of physical comedy that shows how Axe manages to get a hit in when his bladed edge misses a target. Addison Duke’s colors continue to be an absolute delight, bathing everything in a kind of wonky neon glow that emphasizes the otherworldly aspects of the villains and also gives everything a bit more of an ’80s sword-and-sorcery flair. Every page of this issue looks like the side of a metalhead’s custom van, and the world is better for it.
Where this issue really shines is in how it explores the characters even further. Soren and Owen connect on a much more personal level here, with each of them explaining a bit of their own views on justice and revenge. We also get a bit more insight into why Owen does what he does. Yes, he’s been cursed — but he also has a heart.
Axe continues to be a fascinating character as well, his morality constantly in question. There’s a great moment early in the issue in which Axe urges Owen to take Soren’s life while she’s under the influence of a dark power, and Michael Moreci and Nathan Gooden play it so that this could be seen in two different lights. Axe is obviously thirsty for blood and enjoys the thrill of battle (and these ghosts aren’t giving him anything good to drink), but the language he uses and the slight softness to Axe’s usual hard edge also seem to hint that he feels bad for Owen in this moment. The companionship between these two characters clearly goes beyond a sort of “buddy cop” vibe, and I’m curious to see this develop more over time.
Each character also brings with them a particular energy that permeates not only their interactions, but also the visuals. The aforementioned shifts in color palettes are a huge component here, with different types of magic being depicted in different hues and tones. Beyond that, Jim Campbell gives nearly every character a distinct lettering style for their dialogue. Some of them have a more gentle font, while the more monstrous individuals speak in jagged proclamations that seem to reverberate off the edges of the panels.
And of course, the book is still amazingly funny. Aside from the quips and coarse language (which is deployed in increasingly absurd and humorous ways), this book is bound to entertain people who think they know where it’s going at any given moment. Much like the twist of necromancy that was introduced in the previous issue, we get a few moments here that bend what fans of the fantasy genre expect from certain tropes. Deals with the devil, creatures of the night, etc. — all of these concepts are upended in an interesting fashion.
This issue leaves some fascinating bread crumbs that will have readers chomping at the bit for the series’ next story arc, which is due sometime in 2022.
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