When it comes to comic book reviews, I like to stick to what I know, which is horror. I haven’t read superhero or action comics in years, so I’m not very well versed in the current style or trends. I made an exception because Scott Amundson, the author of the indie series Barbarian, sent me an invitation to check out his work – and I noticed there were monsters. I’m a sucker for monsters.
Barbarian begins with the title character escaping from some kind of subterranean prison and immediately going to work on a slew of baddies – everything from demons to a freakin’ Kraken. He bashes, he stabs, he crushes – all the things a good barbarian is supposed to do. Mysteriously, our muscle-bound friend is tethered by long cables attached to metal cuffs on each wrist. It’s mysterious because we never see where the cables go – they always conveniently disappear off the edge of the panel, or behind a tree or a rock. And no matter where the Barbarian goes, they always manage to follow.
But these handcuffs are aren’t the only mystery in this book. In fact, the whole story is a mystery, because I don’t have much of a clue as to what’s going on. Between the first two issues I was able to glean this much: There’s some multidimensional, parallel universe stuff happening; a demon hoarde is getting ready to break through a portal and bring all kinds of pain up in here; even though nobody seems to like him much, the Barbarian is the only thing standing between the human world and the demon world.
And I’m not even sure I’m right about any of that.
Just like it’s Conan-style ancestors, from the first panel to the last, Barbarian has no shortage of violence and action. The problem is that there’s very little context. The cast of characters is small, and dialog is almost non-existant. In terms of artistic value, there are some panels that are downright badass (I’ve included a couple here) but the illustrations don’t do much to fill in the blanks in the story.
I thought maybe I was just an idiot – as I mentioned, these kinds of comics aren’t really my thing – so I did something I almost never do when I write a review. I went looking for other reviews.
It turns out, I’m not an idiot after all, since I found some others who had made similar observations. (I’m also open to the possibility that I just fell in with some other idiots.)
The art in Barbarian is clean and professional, but doesn’t always blow me away. In fact, it may suffer from being a little too polished. The inking, coloring, and lettering all appear to have been done digitally, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s just that for a title called Barbarian, I’d like to see the art have more texture and look a little more organic and gritty. In contrast, the covers are painted in watercolor by Valia Kapadai, and actually do achieve a nice organic look.
Scott only sent me the first two issues of the four issues series, and I’ve heard that issues 3 and 4 are actually the best of the bunch. Issue 4 in particular is supposed to really bring the story into focus – which is good since it’s the final issue in the series. Personally, I’m not sure that 1 & 2 offered me enough to want to check out the rest, but then again they’re available at Comixology for only 99 cents… and I am curious to find out what the fuck is going on with those freaky handcuffs! To check out Barbarian for yourself, visit http://www.comixology.com/
Dave_P studied fine arts and film history and is a graphic and web designer, and a diehard movie fan. David has been involved with a variety film festivals including the Cinephile Film Festival, the PRIDE Film festival, and the Manhattan Short Film festival, and is currently the director of the Dark Carnival Film Fest in Bloomington, Indiana. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)