New Comic Review- Barbaric #1 [VAULT]
Writer: Michael Moreci
Artist: Nathan Gooden
Colorist: Addison Duke
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Vault Comics
Synopsis of Barbaric #1:
Owen the Barbarian has been cursed by a trio of witches to do good for the rest of his life. He is equipped with a magical talking axe that only he seems to hear that guides him like a demented Jiminy Cricket, if the magical cricket was a bloodthirsty magical weapon. The issue focuses on Owen’s time in the fighting pits of the city battling whilst enslaved for a religious leader before making his escape.
Michael Moreci and Nathan Gooden have created a violent, righteous, and all-around fun character in Owen the Barbarian. Owen’s reluctance in fighting for the side of good (in a very bloody fashion) paired with his quick wit and exasperated attitude to it all makes him a compelling character to read. His visual design is striking with a mane of hair comparable to a lion and a permanent scowl across his face. Complimenting the Barbarian is the magical axe of consciousness and essentially Owen’s boss, Axe. Axe is a skull on the back half of a massive battle axe that craves blood and righteous vengeance. Axe’s design is over the top and creates a fun dynamic between the two.
I am a fan of over-the-top violent action comics. It is a genre that I find works well in comics given the medium’s unique ability to control camera, provide internal insight to the character in the form of thought balloons/captions, and ability to show fantastical things that would be challenging to do without a tremendous movie budget. Barbaric fits into this model perfectly.
Moreci provides a comic that is fast paced, action-packed, but also provides the reader all they need to know with Owen’s backstory and the overall tone of the series. It is a fun read that hits all the right buttons. The way Owen is characterized breaks from the mold of the mindless brute that you may expect. I mean he is very much a brute, but he has a sharp tongue and wit. Owen serves his own self interest but that is often in the service of his curse.
One notable bit of dialog Moreci provides is early in the book as the Barbarian is a slave in a gladiatorial style fighting pit. Owen is being coerced by the religious leader to kill these criminals in an effort to enforce the systematic oppression that the religion perpetuates. Owen challenges the religious official over his corruption which shows a bit of depth to Owen but also his wit. He is not a brainless killer; he has moments of genius paired with moments of brutality and jealousy.
The line art by Gooden is superb. The characters are highly animated in their figure work and design. Throughout the book we see a wide array of designs and emotions on the characters. The moment after The Barbarian slaughters an official, the way the two guards are just shrugging is a nice touch. It makes the book more dynamic and engaging.
The layout work also serves the story well by creating sweeping action sequences that pans in and out throughout. It gives the pacing a nice brisk feel and makes the action more impactful. One notable sequence is the opening fight scene in the gladiator pits. There Gooden lays out a series of smaller panels all showing the blow-by-blow action in a quick burst that gives the sensation of speed.
Manipulation of panel size and placement IS HUGE in altering the perception of time for the reader. Additionally, Gooden lays it out in a way that causes the eyes to follow a specific path that allows for the reader to follow the action in the intended manner. The action sequences are all like this one here and it is a wonderful layout.
The Colors by Addison Duke compliments the art so well. The colors are bright and clean. Often focusing on simple flats and cell shading. Duke utilizes a very Earth-tone heavy color palette that sets a more humanistic feel to the book but with pops of colors for the different races of humanoids found throughout. Duke also uses green to help symbolize magic and it creates a nice visual reference for the reader and helps it standout the seemingly grounded world of Barbaric. Well as grounded as a world with a magical talking axe and witches can be.
Barbaric #1 is a wonderful start to a series. The story set up by Moreci and Gooden leaves me wanting more and I will be checking out future issues. Fans of hyper-violent comics needs to check this out. It is a bloody good time.