Owen and Axe: Vampire Slayers

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

Yes everyone’s favourite cursed Barbarian, talking axe and witch combo is back! After a brief sojourn away form the main story with the harvest blades we return to the main plot. When last we left Owen, Axe and Soren they were approached by one of Owen’s old friends, well comrades, Steel, who is stuck with a vampire curse and asks for help. This issue picks up directly after that. So top tip do reread the trade before you read this issue. It’s been such a long time that you will benefit from getting up to speed. Also the trade is a damn good read and well worth a reread in its own right.

So now you have read the trade you will be well up to speed which is good because this issue leaps straight into the action as Owen, Axe, Soren and Steel are up against giant vampires. That is giants who are vampires not vampires that are really big. That’s a very important distinction that Owen feels was not made entirely clear by Steel. Poor Axe is not convinced the blood is good for him, vampire blood is a bit stale. I can’t blame him. He also gets stuck on a spine at one point which looked both disgusting and annoying.

The art of the fights with the giant vampires or is that vampire giants? is really good. We have Owen swinging Axe into whatever but of flesh he can find. Then there’s Soren using magic to sever limbs. The colours really pop (blood everywhere) and the detail of the gore is top notch. When Axe is stuck inside having been forced against a spine you can see the details of the internal bones and organs. It’s really well done.

The humour is as always laced into the narrative so naturally. The tone of Barbaric has always been the glorious mix of violence, danger and humour and this issue is a perfect example of all of that. The opener certainly sets the tone. What I do like is that we’re straight inot the battle with the vampire bad guy introduced at the end of the last arc. You might have thought we’d have time to travel to his lair and that the entire arc would be about freeing Steel from his curse but in fact pretty early on Steel admits that word has travelled that Gladius an evil orc whom Owen and Steel have battled before as awoken. So he will clearly be the new big bad.

Of course we get a nice sojourn at a bar where we get a bit of exposition from Owen to Soren regarding this new big bad. It seems like fighting Gladius the first time had some sort of lasting effect on Owen, something that hopefully will be revealed in the arc to come. Owen is still not quite the sharing type but if anyone can get through to him I would put money on Soren.

The world of Barbaric is always well realised in the art and the bar works as your basic fantasy land bar. However, where the art really excels is in the scene at sea. For to reach Gladius our heroes must traverse across the sea. The first panel of the ship on threatening looking waves set against a red sun is really very atmospheric. When a sea monster enters the fray we get some great classic bits of sea monster versus ship situations which the art expands the fullest. It’s a very exciting sequence and the art works so well (a whale! tentacles!). The detail level just works. The scene on the ship focus on the characters, the background details more hinted at but that focus allows the characters to really shine.

As you can see there’s also a lot packed inot this issue. However it never feels like it is too much. The questing happens naturally and the different scene changes are natural and just flow inot one another, partly thanks to the bits of narration that helps the transitions. It just really works. I very much enjoyed diving in and feel like this issue really has built on the first arc.

With humour, solid character work, adventure and more than a little bit of gore Barbaric is back and doing what it does best.

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