Review: RAIDERS by Daniel Freedman & CROM

Raiders, written by Daniel Freedman, illustrated by CROM, and published by Dark Horse will remind readers of Head Lopper, another swords-and-sorcery comic book that Steve McGuire has previously covered for Geek Guy Buys. While it lacks some of Head Lopper‘s spirit, Raiders still has plenty to offer readers hungry for medieval fantasy of the darker variety.

Dungeons & Dudes

This miniseries follows two brothers, Marken and Maron, in a land filled with “dungeons” of the D&D variety, ruled by corrupt bishops. Marken is a grizzled veteran ready to lay down his sword and start a family, while his much-younger little brother thirsts for adventure. That wanderlust eventually leads Maron to set out on his own to find the glory that Marken has left behind.

Things quickly go sour for the would-be hero, as youth and inexperience lead him to make costly mistakes that bring the wrath of the bishops down on both brothers. What begins as a simple adventure tale devolves into a fight for freedom and survival as Marken is forced to take back up his sword and strike at the heart of his corrupt government.

CROM Makes His Mark(en)

I mean, this is deeply unsettling, but can you imagine the relief?

The art is reminiscent of Head Lopper’s flat style, but, as with that series, services the medieval story well here. Even when things are dour or the characters are trudging through a dungeon, there’s a use of color and a playfulness in the design that shines through, keeping the book from being too weighty or grim.

CROM also manages to render some fairly gory scenes in a way that is genuinely unnerving (watch for a sequence where a man is cut open to give birth to gremlins). It’s bubble gum horror, a mish-mash of searing images and pop-art sensibility that works brilliantly to tell the story at hand.

The Greatest Teacher, Failure Is

Raiders is not a book of good triumphing over evil. Rather, this is about standing up to authority and doing what’s right—whatever the cost.

The story eventually falls in line with something like Braveheart, filtered through the fantasy genre and influenced by the genre’s more grounded turns. There are monsters and magic aplenty in this world, but the trials of Marken and Maron are recognizably human.

Final Verdict

While it’s entirely standalone—by design—another entry in this world would be more than welcome; the creative team clearly had fun playing in this sandbox and additional adventures would give them the opportunity to flesh out the world and add thematic depth to the material.

If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones or other darker, grittier fantasy storytelling, you’ll likely get some mileage out of Raiders. I certainly did, and I’d be very excited to see this team work together on other projects in the future. The story here isn’t revolutionary, but it’s well told and bolstered by strong, clear artwork.

Raiders doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it rolls along at a worthy pace. This one is Worth A Buy.

You can order your copy here.

If you’re interested in the other books we’re geeking out over, check out Geek Guy Buys: Read!