A sign of true brilliance is watching a creator take the troupes of a genre and spin it into something unique yet oddly familiar. When I began reading this graphic novel by Andrew Maclean I know within a few pages that I was in the presence of such brilliance.
If you could take the works of Robert E. Howard and the artistic style of Mike Mignola, add in a dash of D&D, with just a pinch of Eric Powell’s Goon; and throw that entire concoction into a blender, I’m sure the end result would be Head Lopper. Make no mistake, this entire comic may have a familiarity about when you open it up, but this is something entirely new and different.
The story is about Norgal, a mysterious muscle-bound executioner of beasts and evil who has wondered his way to the isle of Barra to slay a monstrous sea serpent. It’s after quickly dispatching this foul beast that Norgal (AKA the Head Lopper…because he has a thing about removing opponent’s noggins) is tangled in a quest to destroy the Sorcerer of the Black Bog. So Norgal packs up his trusty sword, and his companion; the severed head of a blue witch named Agatha, and the adventure begins.
Never has a hero had such a desire to separate evil from their necks, save maybe fellow comic character Ax Cop. Norgal is a one man wrecking crew who can single-handedly take down sea serpents, giants, giant wolves, rock lizards, armies and just about anything that stands in his way. He is an unmitigated force of nature. He is Conan the Barbarian, if Conan wasn’t such a feeble excuse of a warrior, turned up to eleven…or maybe 12 in this case.
The story is an epic journey that bleeds its way across the island. Maclean shows time and again that he is a master at pacing by slowing and quickening the plot at will, leaving the action fast paced with lots of blood and guts along the way, but also having the deft touch to slow down and build up his characters and the overall plot. There is rarely a moment that you don’t feel like the author is in control of the story. This is his tale and we are just the fortunate viewers.
Given that Maclean is also the artists on this book it stands to reason why the story and art mix so well together. You can see Maclean’s influences from page one till the close of the novel. There are bits of Mignola, Powell, and Avon Oeming floating about. Again, I press the thought that this lends to that air of familiarity while giving the reader something new.
Final Thoughts: The plot is not reinventing the wheel, but the way in which we get to the conclusion of the story is new and exciting. If you are a fan of any of the creators or creations that I have cited in this review then I would strongly suggest that you pick up this trade.
Final Grade: 4 ½ Stars
Head Lopper, Vol. 1: TP
Story/Art/Letters/Colors: Andrew Maclean
Colors: Mike Spicer
Epilogue Colors: Lin Visel and Joseph Bergin III
Publisher: Image Comics