In the world of comic fiction, Mankind’s history is often writ, not just in India ink, but also in blood. Blood, mostly spilled in the course of violence dispensed by dangerous men or women (whether for their own personal gain or in the protection and service of others). And to separate these, sometimes, noble savages from their more benign and laid back peers, comic creators attribute them namesakes that reflect their brutal nature. Writer Robert E. Howard, creator of “Conan the Barbarian”, understood this. And artist Frank Frazetta, creator of “Death Dealer” and “Berserker”, understood this as well. If any of these individuals were born with a proper birth name, say for example John, Lucy, William, or Dale, there seems an unspoken belief among creators that these aforementioned handles just wouldn’t cut it. And if there is one person who truly understands this axiom (more so than even Frazetta and Howard), than it is writer-artist Andrew MacLean… creator of “Head Lopper”.
Head Lopper is the story of sword-for-hire Norgal whose vocation in life is to go from town to town, decapitating the various threats that plague the citizens. Whether it be a sea serpent or witch, he does so with few words and walking a lonely path. The only company he’s had has been the living head of one of his victims (tucked in a sack), Agatha.
Although given the humor present in this issue and the choice of sword and sorcery as a genre, I wouldn’t compare this to writer-artist Sergio Aragone’s Groo the Wanderer. If anything, the first issue reminds me more of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy. The humor doesn’t dominate the book, and the character avoids being a one note premise (a smart decision by MacLean).
As for the artwork, no one needs to teach nor does Andrew MacLean need to learn anything further about conveying action in a panel. If our planet should ever run out of fossil fuels, MacLean’s line work should be considered an alternative energy source. I also loved the beginning sequence where a seagull is employed to introduce us to both setting and character in one cinematically inspired swoop. And, with a sharp use of both blacks and a sublime palette (by colorist Mike Spicer), this is easily one of the cleanest and most gorgeous books ever produced in recent memory.
In the past, I have to admit that my jaded outlook (in regards to what I see as an inundation of “big event book sensibilities” by the top comic companies) has gotten the better of me and my reviews have been affected by it. It is creative (and thankfully independent) forces like Andrew MacLean and Mike Spicer, that represent (especially to me) a real and substantial future for this art form.
Truly a pleasure to read and review. 5 out 5
First issue available online at: http://andrewmaclean.storenvy.com