Barbaric: Axe to Grind #1 is the triumphant return for a fantasy series that has been unabashedly violent, expertly drawn, and gleefully, well…barbaric. Vault Comics has made it clear they have big plans for the property, which is exciting given how much potential this series has to explore its world. In the opening salvo of the new series, Owen and Axe are really pissed off as they are surrounded by vampires. Only one thing left to do: Kill ’em all!
But that’s not all – they’re fighting giants who are also vampires. The banter in Barbaric continues to be great thanks to Michael Moreci’s writing, adding humor and a back-and-forth to Nathan Gooden’s great art. There’s a good balance between character-defining dialogue and the action, evident from the fact that the first 13 pages are made up of one action scene. Still, it feels far more robust and interesting than most action scenes are capable of.
Plot-wise, this issue does some key table setting to get our characters back on a journey. That journey takes them places, like a bar to get way too drunk or, in the last third of the issue, the sea. Once again, Moreci and Gooden continue to explore different fantasy tropes while delivering violence never seen before in comics. Or at the very least, never seen before looking so damn clean and pleasing to the eye.
Gooden’s art is a step beyond what you’d typically get from an indie fantasy comic. No shade to other fantasy comics, but his use of digital effects to add motion blur to the incredible gore and violence is unparalleled. To say the gore is glorious is an understatement as it’ll make you gag in a good way but also marvel at the very idea of what we’re seeing. If you’ve ever had an achilles injury, don’t read this issue!
There’s good attention to backgrounds, which have just enough to make out spacial distance but also aren’t hyper-detailed to the point where the characters blend into the backgrounds either. Speaking of volume, distance, and spacial awareness, Addison Duke’s colors are nearly constantly giving the reader information as far as where characters are positioned. He’s very good at casting a sliding shadow or dulling the color of characters in the foreground, for instance, to help separate them from characters further back. That creates a pleasing and dynamic image in every panel.
Barbaric: Axe to Grind is like if Conan the Barbarian and Heavy Metal Magazine had a baby. Throw in dynamic character moments straight out of Saga, and the series’ return is a welcome one as it brings forth the violence and the charm of these bastard characters that deserve our attention.
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