Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Brian Ruckley
Artist: Andrea Mutti
Release Date: 22nd February 2017
The Highlander franchise returns this week with a brand-new mini-series from IDW Publishing, hoping to tap into the impressive cult following that the eon-spanning fantasy series – featuring epic battles between sword-wielding immortals and a thumping soundtrack from Queen – has built up over the last thirty years.
Thankfully, writer Brian Ruckley neatly sidesteps the confusing quagmire of continuities which spun out of the 1986 movie by setting this series up as a prequel of sorts, focusing his story on some of the key events in Connor MacLeod’s life prior to “The Gathering”. Ruckley’s dialogue and characterisation are spot-on here, and he keeps a tight grip on the reigns during this first issue as he introduces immortal monk Osta Vazilek into the Highlander mythos before jumping into the past to show us he and Connor’s first meeting on the blood-soaked battlefields of Gettysburg.
Andrea Mutti’s artwork is always well worth a look, and he lends a typically confident hand to the proceedings here, providing some measured expression with his characters and an understated feeling of dynamism in the action sequences. Everything is subtle with Mutti, as should be expected from those familiar with his work, an approach which fits well alongside the established Highlander style to provide an engaging aesthetic that never becomes too gaudy or gung-ho.
While it’s not particularly heavy on exposition, this first issue is admittedly a little slow in places, with the modern-day scenes dragging a little when compared to the far more enjoyable sequences during the American Civil War. Connor himself also feels a little slight from a characterisation point of view, with Osta Vazilek commanding the lion’s share of the narrative with his powerful presence and intriguing outlook.
It’s a solid enough story, and new face Vazilek is definitely an intriguing addition, but it all just feels like Ruckley is playing things a little bit too safe for the time being, proving an affectionate but ultimately underwhelming addition to the Highlander lore. There’s potential here for sure, but unless you’re a die-hard fan of the franchise, your fantasy itch could probably be scratched far more satisfyingly elsewhere.
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