Publisher: Vault
Writer: Michael Moreci
Artist: Robert Wilson IV
Colorist: Addison Duke
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Colour Assistant: Andrew Misisco
Barbaric created by Moreci & Gooden

Stop me if you’ve heard this one – a ‘knighted warrior’, a thief and a dark mystic walk into a village and hire a cursed Barbarian with a talking axe. That’s essentially the main plot of this issue. This is the first of hopefully several stories set in the Barbaric universe, side quests if you will to the main plot. Owen and Axe both appear and we get some more information about Owen’s curse and his past, Axe’s blood addiction, their vitriolic relationship and a memorable new character.

Barbaric was one of my favourite books of last year so to have more of the characters and world was always welcome and this is a great little spin off. There’s new characters but we also get more insight into Owen and Axe. There’s still the wonderful gory art (seeing Owen hurl Axe into a body never gets old) and the fun sense of humour. Really if you like your fantasy with a side of bloodthirstiness and humour then Barbaric is definitely the book for you. I also think that although this is a spinoff it’s not entirely necessary to have read Barbaric so far, though you will get far more out of it if you have.

This issue opens with a flashback to Owen’s pre-cursed days as he recounts a heroic tale of the time he and his brother – Steele, a weird guy called Wizard, and the leader of the Deadheart gang (plus their women) were captured by a mad cleric and had to escape the pit of shadows. It’s a fun little anecdote that sets the tone both with the writing and art. The mix of danger and humour ever present. It also gives us a look at Owen fighting with a regular axe rather than a talking one. It’s visually jarring for those of us who are used to Axe and underlines the fact that this is the old Owen.

Of course that’s just a warm up to the main quest, a taster if you will. Now having brought ‘peace’ to a village (Axe disagrees) it’s clear Owen needs a quest and luckily that quest appears as a ragtag group consisting of Sir Carmody, a mercenary called La’Kandra and a dark mystic appear and ask for Owen’s help in defeating a great evil heading toward Docimel. So, being bound to do good, Owen and Axe head off. Along the journey there’s giant spiders, romance (well, sex), evil magic and an interesting tale of a young girl who now wields twin blades (wonder who that could be). There’s a huge depth and breath to the things that go on. It feels like a solidly substantial tale which is paced so well you feel like you are reading a longer book.

It is an action packed issue but what is also great is the character work weaved in. The standout character for me, as always, is Axe. Axe gets the best lines, which often make me laugh out loud. Even though Axe is well, an Axe, his facial expressions are so very good. There’s real skill in the way Axe is depicted in the art as a character with emotion. I especially like his drunken face dripping with blood but I’ve always been a gore fan, especially when combined with wit.

Having said that Axe is the best character I also really liked newcomer La’Kandra. For a character we’ve never met before she was really well realised again in both writing and art. The way she leaped on the back of the giant spider and stabbed it was a great burst of action. I also like the way her exposition is told as a tale about a girl. It’s clearly her but it harks back to the fact that Owen too was telling a tale about his past earlier on. Plus La’Kandra and Owen have rather excellent blade related sexual tension (poor Axe has to watch) I would enjoy seeing more of her in the main series.

Like the main series this issue also plays with expectations of good and bad guys and moral lines. That sounds quite serious but rest assured the humour remains intact throughout. I mean Owen’s moral arbiter is a talking axe so bear that in mind. Yet the good/evil dichotomy is part of the whole fantasy genre and is explored neatly here but with that unique Barbaric touch.

This was such a fun read. It had action, danger, humour and my perennial favourite a giant spider. With interesting characters, a compelling plot and Axe’s continuing desire for blood this is a great addition to the Barbaric canon. If we get more spinoffs like this I will be very pleased indeed.

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