Andrew MacLean, if you ever read this review, thank you. Holy shit. Thank you.
I first encountered Head Lopper at Boston Comic-Con in 2014. Drawn to see the likes of Sean Astin and Jewel Staite, I would never have expected that one of the most resonant images I’d encounter at the convention center would be the cover of Head Lopper #1.
My brother and I stopped, intrigued by the irked stare of the eponymous hero and the dangling mug of Agatha the Blue Witch. We walked away with signed copies, and the McGuires have been Head Lopper fans ever since.
An Entirely New Norse Mythos
The series opens with a sea monster wreaking havoc in Castlebay on the Isle of Barra. The encounter sees the monster cut down and fed to the gulls, thanks to the efforts of our hero, Norgal.
Norgal’s list of names rivals that of Daenarys: the son of the Minotaur, the Executioner, the Head Lopper. A hero’s hero, Norgal is the brawny, brutish beefcake with a propensity for separating villains’ heads from their bodies.
Among those heads includes his ever-present companion, the chattering, powerful head of Agatha, the Blue Witch. She provides antagonism, absurdity and – on rare occasions – aid to Norgal.
From the opening scene, writer and artist Andrew MacLean takes us on an epic journey that would leave Odysseus gasping.
In volume one, Norgal rids the Isle of Barra of its plague of beasts, much to the dismay of its architect, a seething vengeful sorcerer tucked away in the island’s foreboding bog. Volume two grants us a look inside the Crimson Tower, a supernatural gladiator’s arena run by a powerful lich. The third volume provides the long-awaited reveal of how Norgal and Agatha became cosmically intertwined as the B-story to a city’s defense against a horde of goblins celebrating the birth of their deity.
What MacLean does in his pages is enthralling. He spins a yarn, or three, that feels entirely at home next to the exploits of Ragnar Lodbrok but comes away entirely unique. Head Lopper walks a razor-thin line between old Norse legend and fresh adventure.
Head Lopper began as an entirely independent operation before being picked up by Image Comics in 2015. And frankly, comic titans were foolish not to put MacLean on the payroll before.
As the writer and the artist, MacLean tasked himself with crafting a compelling story and creating a singular aesthetic to match it. Although no small feat, MacLean makes it look easy. Clean lines, hatch shading and a keen eye for well-framed action makes Head Lopper a treat, page after page.
My favorite part of Head Lopper may be MacLean’s use of onomatopoeia. MacLean finds unconventional spellings for everyday (and decidedly not-everyday) sounds that pop from the page without the cheesiness of Asterix or the self-seriousness of DC titles.
I’ve never heard a sword sever the Achilles tendon of a goblin giant, but SPLUK communicates it pretty well.
The Final Verdict
So, Andrew. Mr. MacLean. Thank you for understanding the force of Head Lopper. Thank you for pouring your sweat into every issue until Image saw your genius for what it was. Thank you for forging ahead with the fortitude and will of Zhaania in the Crimson Tower.
Head Lopper, volumes one, two and three, all merit the rank of Well Worth The Purchase.
Also well worth the purchase: MacLean’s art and apparel, which can be found on his store site: Laser Wolf Attack.
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