“Head Lopper #5”
Writer, Artist, Letters: Andrew Maclean
Colours Jordie Bellaire
I’ve been waiting for the second arc of Andrew Maclean’s quarterly adventure comic, Head Lopper, with bated breath. The first run of four packed super issues and the accompanying trade (full to bursting with sketches and bonus content) was punchy, iconic, and an absurd amount of fun. The latest book released this Wednesday is no different. If you missed the premiere, don’t fret, as this issue gives enough set-up that you can jump right in here. If you are up-to-date and enjoyed the Plague of Beats arc, you won’t be disappointed. You want a bigger cast of characters? You got it. Imposing villain? Uh-huh. Wacky dialogue? Out the wazoo. Most importantly, do heads get lopped?! You bet! Head Lopper is and continues to be a multi-coloured Viking hack-and-slash that you don’t want to miss.
Our hero, Norgal, and the disembodied witch head Agatha, are up to their usual banter as reluctant travel companions in this re-introduction issue. Plot progression is swift, so it doesn’t take long to find out what the duo is up to as they approach a very foreboding-looking Crimson Tower. It is foretold whomever fights their way through this monument is crowned the greatest warrior of the known lands and wins the tower’s throne. Many have itchy sword hands, eager to claim such a title. Norgal and Agatha accompany a woman-warrior, Zhaania Kota Ka, whose mission is one of honor and not glory- she has lost family to this quest and seeks answers. Yet who knows what horrors and trials await inside?
While the first story arc of this barbarian-style tale was a voyage-based quest through a kingdom plagued by beasts, this issue sets up for what promises to be more of a close-encounter dice-‘em-up brawl. Head Lopper comics are longer than your usual release, packing loads of action and story into large quarterly issues. In-panel sound-effects give us all the CRUNCH, BWOM, and FOONK moments we could ask for, letting us “hear” every flying arrow and crippling blow as characters fly, slice, dive, and duck their way through challenge after challenge with acrobatic ease (or meet their grim fate). It gives the whole comic an animated quality that propels the story through flourishes that are more like watching a cartoon than reading a book. The text is just as engaging as the wild, punchy action-sequences. Entirely dialogue-driven, Head Lopper is fluid in its banter and storytelling. Agatha spurts songs, taunts, and witchy cackles while Norgal waxes poetic about what it takes to be a true warrior. Chants, proclamations, and sorrowful speeches spill from pages not permeated with peril and dynamic fervor. The result is a joyful ruckus, a rampage that is a breeze to flick through.
It’s worth embarking on Head Lopper adventures for the artistic style alone. It’s no wonder Maclean doesn’t rely on exposition boxes to do the narrative work- his panels are so consistently legible, little text necessary. The bold quality of Maclean’s inkwork captures each character’s personality in a few lines, making a quick and distinct caricature of each- Norgal is all beard and blade, while Agatha is slung over his back with her iconic bulging eyes and hooked nose. Even background stand-ins are drawn in with care and unique-ness, building a vibrant supporting cast that beg for more background storylines. No matter the setting, landscapes are stripped down and cleanly represented, grounding the action firmly to whatever waters or castle rooms our heroes are traversing. Adding just the right amount of shade and texture, there is a maturity to the way forms and figures are simplified, and a sense of humour to the way they are exaggerated. Jordie Bellaire’s flat, vivid colouring is the neat little bow that ties everything together. Vibrant and primary-heavy pallets add a sleek style, and sharp contrasts allow blood to spray and figures to whip around with emphasis always right where it needs to be. Like Norgal himself, each visual blow seems to make perfect contact, landing just the right slices to blow our minds (or separate them from our shoulders).
Returning readers to Head Lopper will find everything they came to enjoy from the first saga in this new release, while newcomers to the series will be happy to discover a fantastical world of colourful warriors. Brimming with humour, sweeping landscapes, and wrought with cartoon violence, Head Lopper is a fierce fantasy tumble. If you’ve yet to read any of this thoroughly entertaining title, I suggest picking up the first collection, though issue one of Head Lopper and The Crimson tower is a perfectly adequate jumping-on point. Surprising no one, I heartily declare Head Lopper continues to be a strong 10/10.
Chris is the owner of The Sidekick comic shop/coffee bar in Toronto. You can find her there under a mountain of books, doing shots of espresso off the bar.When she’s not in the shop, Chris does freelance illustration work and tours the city’s outdoor space with her dog Cooper.
Her favorite fandoms feature giant monsters.