Sunday, 23 October 2016
Head Lopper, Volume 1: The Island, or A Plague of Beasts Review (Andrew MacLean, Mike Spicer)
The Isle of Barra is menaced with hideous monsters and a dark sorcerer who wants to kill the Queen – enter the white-haired barbarian Norgal the Head Lopper and his severed talking head, Agatha Blue Witch, who’s hired to save the kingdom! Hello, Generic Fantasy Plot? We need to recycle you for this book!
Andrew MacLean’s swords and sorcery comic Head Lopper is a bit crap. MacLean’s art is interesting – think a cross between Mike Mignola and Michael Avon Oeming’s styles – but like a lot of artists who try to do it all, he falls down with the writing.
Head Lopper is a bit too invincible for his own good. Hellboy had a similar problem but the things he fought and places he went were exotic and curious enough to hold the reader’s attention. MacLean adopts the same tack too which is why Head Lopper’s adventures on Barra are the best thing about the comic.
The fighting is extravagant and over-the-top (the reason why each of the issues is so long) and the constantly-changing environs are eye-catching, like the purple Heaven’s Causeway (basically Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland but in the sky!), thanks in large part to Mike Spicer’s attractive colouring. While it certainly lives up to its title, the near-constant fantasy violence does get very played out after a while though thanks to the 250-page length.
It’d be better if the book was just about Head Lopper because every time he’s not on the page in some cool new place fighting some giant monster things get really dull. MacLean tries for a Gormenghast/Game of Thrones-type storyline of court intrigues that’s beyond his abilities to make compelling.
The Steward of Barra is plotting revenge, the Sorcerer of the Black Bog is also up to stuff, the Abbott is corrupt and after more riches, and there are a pair of stoner twins who smoke up and watch Head Lopper from a distance for no reason. I didn’t care about these characters or what they were after so whenever the focus shifted to them, the book draaaagged!
It’s not helped that things become extremely banal with the stereotypical hero vs villain fight at the end where we find out – spoiler but not really because it’s so broad and conventional - the villain wants powah, so much powah! Real original motivation buddy … And wow do Agatha’s bad jokes get annoying fast! It’s like those times when C-3PO got beheaded and started in on the puns only it goes on longer.
Head Lopper is a visual treat but the writing and storytelling is lacking. Andrew MacLean doesn’t have anything unique to offer the fantasy genre, utilising the same archetypical characters and setups anyone familiar with these kinds of stories will have seen a thousand times before - Head Lopper is your standard swords and sorcery guff rehashed again.