Conan the Barbarian returned to the pages of Marvel Comics over two years ago in what was promised a revival of sword and witchcraft comics, which peaked in the 1980s when the two Military leader and Conan were still popular monthly series. Sadly, like almost every series that has followed this decade, Conan’s explosion of new material has simply produced more of the same – reproductions of Howard’s familiar take on brutal men killing thugs, defying magic and women’s bedding. Even as a reader who appreciates the past work of Mike Grell and Barry Windsor-Smith, it all seems too derivative to deserve much attention. Fortunately, Barbaric # 1, by writer Michael Moreci and artist Nathan Gooden of publisher Vault Comics, recognizes repeating the past is a sure-fire recipe for mediocrity and provides the first exciting new series of swords and witchcraft to come out in comic book stores for many years.
Barbaric focuses on Owen, a Conan-like barbarian in a world filled with familiar fantasy tropes (eg, multiple humanoid races, an abundance of magic, gladiatorial fights) cursed for “doing the right thing” as his talking ax defines it and thirsty for blood. The premise clearly defines its own conflicts as all but noble Owen are obligated to help others and forbidden to cross nebulous moral boundaries. It’s also a concept that can be presented without too much exposure as the first issue graciously introduces readers to its very strange world with just one flashback sequence.
Although elements of the genre are widely recognizable, BarbaricThe tone and style of is unique and will likely intrigue readers who would otherwise avoid niches. It embraces modernity early on, as the opening page produces purple prose only to be refuted a moment later by Owen’s response: “Fuck this shit.” The dialogue is modernized to make the text more accessible, which allows Barbaric to more easily define a modern sense of humor and politics. It’s also an incredibly funny book, which regularly uses long pauses and Owen’s own dry responses to deliver laugh-worthy lines. He’s also a lot more engaged than most comics of his ilk, playfully tackling the “trickle-down economy” early on in the story.
Along with the debut issue which sets itself apart from the tone and storytelling of similar comics, it also features the captivating aesthetic that made its predecessors so popular. Gooden doesn’t ape the grown-ups, but his appreciation for Grell is clear. It populates the pages with a diversity of humanity making each background an invitation to exploration.
Violence is portrayed with intense ferocity as weapons and body parts are cut to pieces. The cause-and-effect relationship depicted in the final action sequence is particularly noteworthy as it incorporates a lot of information into the action, like a witch’s unique abilities, never requiring a single word to explain what is going on. All of this is enhanced, in turn, by a great set of base character designs, each of which instantly stands out. Even a handful of inconsistent representations never slow the pace of the problem.
Gooden’s works invite reluctant readers to revel in elements of the genre, and Moreci’s modernized vision ensures there’s plenty to hold the interest of new readers and old comic book collectible battle axes. There is a genuine appreciation for what came before, but never a hint of nostalgia on the page.
In recent years, the direct readers of the market have discovered a new wave of sword and witchcraft, but they have not contained a new idea. Barbaric # 1 breaks this trend by producing a familiar barbarian and a world with a totally unfamiliar approach. He’s loud in his style, brutal in his fights, inventive in his storylines, and always hilarious in the midst of it all. The result is a comic that I look forward to reading each month because Barbaric finally reintroduces ambition into one of comics’ most revered genres.
published by BD Vault
At June 30, 2021
Written by Michel Moreci
Art by Nathan Gooden
Colors by The Duke of Addison
Letters from Jim campbell
Covered by Nathan Gooden and Addison Duke