Publisher: Vault Comics
Writer: Michael Moreci
Artwork: Nathan Gooden
Colours: Addison Duke
Lettering: Jim Campbell
Release Date: 30th June 2021
It’s safe to say that I’ve been a massive fan of Michael Moreci for quite some time, ever since he first grabbed my attention back in 2014 as part of the creative team on werewolf horror CURSE over at BOOM! Studios. As such, I make it a point to check out everything his name is attached to, and in the case of BARBARIC, on sale this week from Vault Comics, it seems that I’m definitely not alone.
Moreci teams up with artist Nathan Gooden, colourist Addison Duke and letterer Jim Campbell for this wonderfully subversive tale of a Barbarian named Owen who has been cursed to help anyone who needs assistance, and whose only real moral compass is a talking Axe with a serious (blood) drinking problem. And it’s absolutely brilliant.
I’m not sure there’s such a thing as a perfect first issue, but if there is, this might be it. Effortlessly establishing its tone and premise in a hilarious and energetic fashion, Barbaric introduces us to Owen as he is encouraged to mete out some violent justice to a few would-be victims at the bequest of a religious fanatic. Turns out Owen (and his Axe) have other ideas, and… well, I ‘m not going to delve too deeply into what happens next, because seriously, you need to pick this one up for yourself.
While I’m already fully familiar with Moreci’s knack for snappy, natural-sounding and hilarious dialogue from the likes of Wasted Space (also available now from Vault Comics), I’ll admit that Gooden and Duke had shamefully managed to slip under my radar to this point. Well, what a way to make a first impression! Each panel is impressively detailed, the characters are packed with expression and depth, and when the blood starts flying… hooooo boy. Let’s just say it’s a good thing Duke knows his way around the colour red.
I’m honestly not sure what part of this issue I enjoyed most; Owen’s weary, deadpan delivery; Gooden and Duke’s frequent forays into sense-shatteringly violent montage; or the hilarious and increasingly drunken encouragement of the Axe itself. It’s all fantastic, and actually manages to work on a number of different levels, both as a subversion of the somewhat played-out Robert E. Howard-esque Barbarian tropes and as a thoroughly entertaining story in its own right.
It’s always great to see a comic living up to its impressive hype, but in all honesty, I think BARBARIC may have actually exceeded it. From the legitimate belly laugh on page five to the air-punching violence throughout to the eyebrow-raising final page, this is a perfect example of exactly why I read comics. To be entertained. And if entertainment is what you’re after, I truly can’t recommend this series highly enough.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]