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

Due to some sort of dark fantasy magic issue two was not reviewed at time of release. However after sending a barbarian with a talking axe out there we now have two issues to review, last month’s and this. So you get the pleasure of a double review! Twice the magic, twice the blood, twice the danger and all of the axe related snark.

Both of these issues deepen the mythology . Issue two has more of an exposition feel in a number of ways but some really big developments happen at the end of issue three, leaving something of a cliffhanger to be picked up in the next arc. It does feel like eventually all of Barbaric will be read as this one long epic. I need the next arc soon because yeah it ended in a way that really means I need to see what happens next.

Issue two is the quieter of the two. It’s the one where Steel fills in more backstory. If you have read all of Barbaric including the one shots up to this point some of what Steels says will be familiar and it nicely fills in the gaps. If you haven’t it’s detailed enough that you will definitely end up with all the knowledge required. It’s the best sort of exposition that works for both long time readers and those newer to the world.

We get a lot of insight into Steel especially through the narrated flashbacks. There’s copious but sensible uses of various fantasy tropes as he describes the events leading up to the first confrontation with Gladius and the reason he and Owen are so hellbent on revenge. There’s also a healthy dose of destiny and fate in there.

Meanwhile Owen meets an elemental who hints at something far bigger than a revenge mission as they attempt to warn Owen off a confrontation with Gladius. We find out that there’s more to the curse than Owen first appreciated and Axe could be the key to something far more than just a tendency to get drunk on blood. The stakes are far higher than any of characters appreciate.

Then in issue three we get the confrontation between Gladius and Owen, with much orc slaughtering in the meantime as Soren meets her magical match. I won’t give away too many spoilers but let’s just say Owen will have a hell of a time next arc. It’s interesting to see Owen so stubborn. Again the elementals try to stop him but the taste of revenge is too much for him to resist. Owen still can’t see the bigger picture.

The art is as always great throughout both issues. The elemental is well realised, tearing apart a woman to appear and looking quite different to anything we have seen before. This is underlined in issue three when they try and stop Owen in the form of a humanoid tree. Again we’ve seen fantasy creatures before, like the orcs but this is something quite different. Very intimidating in the art and a real threat. We don’t quite know why Owen is being warned off but the confrontation in the art certainly shows that it’s a serious move.

As always there’s plenty of gore but the death of a character in flashback is particularly well done. It’s brutal and shocking but the panels before we see said character impaled in a way have more impact than the actual impalement. The flashbacks generally are full of nice little details from the subtle ones of naked bodies to the really horrific and monstrous battlefields. The art makes the flashbacks practically drip with blood and brutality.

That helps the buildup to the confrontation. Steel reveals himself as something no longer human, we’ve not seen that before, he looks very otherworldly and we can finally appreciate his curse and what it has done to him. Following on from the previous issue where he talks about being turned into a monster, even before his curse it has an impact.

Both these issues have great pacing and energy, you want to keep reading. The writing is world building and giving character insight with the art backing that up. The lettering and the styles for the different characters is so effective. The Red speech bubbles for the elemental is a nice touch.

We also do get the humour, though it’s less overt as the tone shifts into the real deep world building. It’s as always Axe who brings the snark and witty asides. He also gets the taste of various types of blood this issue, his diet branching out. He remains my favourite character.

The stakes are now higher than they have ever been and there’s now something of a running villain with Gladius. There are a lot more questions raised even as we get answers about the past. It’s just developing so well and in a way that has me hooked completely. I am impatient for more. Owen is in real trouble. Axe has a new status quo. Soren too and Steel has much to come to terms with. It’s also very clearly not over yet. I can’t wait to see what the hell is in store next.

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