Publisher: Image Comics
Writer/Artist: Andrew MacLean
Colourist: Mike Spicer, Andrew MacLean
Release Date: 9th September, 2015
Norgal is a mighty swordsman of great renown. Affectionately dubbed the “Head Lopper” – even if he himself isn’t overly fond of the name – he travels the land slaying monsters, with his only companion being the decapitated head of Agatha the Blue Witch. Yeah. Coming from the mind and pen of Andrew MacLean, this gloriously-over-the-top swords and sorcery comic hits the shelves this week courtesy of Image Comics with a special double-sized 80-page first issue, and I have to say, it’s bloody marvellous.
There’s a decidedly tongue-in-cheek approach to the story that fits well given the fairly ‘out there’ premise. While it isn’t a full-on parody by any means, it definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously either, with Agatha providing the bulk of the dark humour as she continually mocks Norgal and provides a running commentary on his exploits from her home in the pack on his back. She also frequently finds herself becoming physically inserted into the story, being used as both a club and a football at different points during this first issue.
The story here sees Norgal – and, by extension, Agatha – travelling to Barra in Scotland, an island which has been overrun by monsters, beasties and dark conjurors. However, what starts as a simple quest to relieve the aforementioned beasties of their heads quickly spirals into something else entirely as the dark secrets of the island pull the Head Lopper in deeper and deeper. The characterisation of the lead character is slight, almost non-existent (he’s good with a sword and has a talent for removing heads), but it’s the story that surrounds him which really gets the hooks in. Interesting characters, shady conspiracies and gloriously bizarre monsters abound, with Norgal cutting a swath through them all like an unrelenting, bearded force of nature.
There’s definitely something of Mike Mignola in MacLean’s artwork, which isn’t to say it’s derivative in any way, but rather that it adopts similar sensibilities in terms of his ultra-stylised characters design and kinetic layouts. Colouring duties for the main story are provided here by Mike Spicer, utilising a somewhat flat, almost cartoony approach which works well to complement the relative simplicity of MacLean’s visual style. Norgal himself is a wonderfully simple creation, all muscles and facial hair, and the jagged eruptions of blood throughout this first issue convey a sense of motion and impact that’s second to none.
While it continually finds itself balancing on the knife-edge between silly and serious, Head Lopper is an utterly enjoyable read with a striking visual style, providing a decidedly original take on the swords and sorcery genre.
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The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
Article Archive: Ceej Says