Publisher: Image Comics
Writer/Artist: Andrew MacLean
Colourist: Mike Spicer, Andrew MacLean
Release Date: 9th December, 2015
“I do not need to take their lives. Only their heads.”
That’s essentially the mentality at the heart of Andrew MacLean’s Head Lopper, a gloriously over-the-top fantasy series published by Image Comics, the second issue of which goes on sale this week. The story centres around Norgal, the eponymous lopper of heads, as he travels the land with only the severed head of Agatha the Blue Witch to keep him company. There’s something about a shadowy conspiracy, a little bit of a Game of Thrones-esque power struggle and more beasties than you can shake a Monster Manual at, but at the heart of the story is a pretty simple concept; you mess with Norgal, your head is coming off.
MacLean’s dark sense humour flows through this series, particularly in the hate-filled banter between Norgal and Agatha, with the pair taunting and tormenting each other through every step of their perilous journey. The supporting characters are interesting enough, even if the last thing the fantasy world needs is another annoying singing leprechaun, and MacLean makes sure to throw in all manner of interesting monsters and creatures along the way, from giants to undead ghouls, each ripe for a good ‘lopping.
As entertaining as the story is, the real selling point of the series is MacLean’s utterly sublime artwork. Basic, yes, but also packed with expression and dynamic explosions of movement, particularly during the all-too-frequent battle scenes. Norgal himself remains a fantastic creation, particularly from a visual point of view, with his majestic beard, rippling biceps and unparalleled swordsmanship giving him a truly unmistakable appearance. It’s also worth tipping a hat to Mike Spicer, whose wonderfully flat colours give this an almost Cartoon Network-esque aesthetic – until the heads start coming off, that is.
Honestly, while I could dig into the minutiae of what makes this series so special for hours, all you really need to know is that it’s just plain fun to read. Not too serious, not too silly, but right on the glorious borderline that can have you gasping in horror as a poor child sees his family slaughtered in front of him one moment, and then punching the air as an irritating, blood-soaked companion is punted into the distance the next.
With Apocalyptigirl and now this, MacLean has cemented his place as an absolute “must-buy” creator for me, and I’m already starting to get withdrawals until my next quarterly Norgal fix. One of my favourite reads of the year, even if the three-month wait between issues is borderline cruel. Darkly humourous, gloriously illustrated and boundlessly entertaining, Head Lopper is a book you truly owe it to yourself to pick up.
The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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