Title: Head Lopper #6
Publisher: Image Comics
Creators: Andrew Maclean
*Review copy provided by Image Comics
The first Head Lopper story took place over 4 issues of mystical greatness. The comic was easy to jump into—it wasn’t drawn over-realistically, which lent itself to the over-the-top action at hand and the fantastic story being told. The dialogue was also written wonderfully, with a man of few words at the helm: Norgal, Son of the Minotaur, Executioner (just call him Norgal). It contained a story of betrayal at its heart and dealt with serious themes that were made more palatable by tone and delivery. It played with some genre tropes in all the right ways, and readers were given characters, scenery, magic, and motives that felt right in the Head Lopper world. Head Lopper #6, the second issue in the next 4-part story, is carrying on in much the same way as Norgal and friends continue their trials and ascent through the Crimson Tower.
Norgal, having bested the evil sorcerer of the Black Bog of Barra, now finds himself on another far-away shore. At the end of issue 4, he purchased a vessel and left Barra with Zhaania Kota Ka, a warrior woman who helped him out of a pickle toward the end of the story. Now on a strange island, the crew makes their way through the Crimson Tower, a spire that spews out the blood of those who fail the trials inside. It’s a quest for answers, revenge, and for Norgal, the thrill of the challenge. Issue 6 picks up after the battle with the automaton inside the tower and focuses on the Head Lopper and Zhaania trying to find the crystal eyes hidden through the doors in the tower.
As a huge fan of the first Head Lopper story (issues 1-4), the next adventure for Norgal couldn’t get here soon enough for me. Issue 5 kicked it off, and it delivered just as I knew it would. I will say that the overall story has not revealed itself to be as woven and interlaced as the first outing, but it really shouldn’t be only 2 issues in. One reason I might be thinking that the first saga was so well conceived is because I read it as a trade volume and not pieced out in single issues like I am with the current story. None of that really matters, though, because everything in issues 5 and 6 isn’t lacking in any way that makes the comic suffer.
If anything, this most recent issue is playing with some more interesting ideas than the last arch contained. There’s still lots of monster- and human-slaying alike, but the slaying just seems darker this time around. In the last adventure, while there were some moments of intimate betrayal and death, we saw a lot of faceless nobodies die, fodder for Norgal and his villains. Without spoiling anything, this time around, death is more intimate and meaningful. This is mostly due to the close quarters of the Crimson Tower itself. Only so many people entered the Crimson Tower, so instead of a sprawling cast of characters, readers are instead allowed to grow close to only a handful of interesting personalities. You just sort of “feel” things more.
Besides bringing the readers closer to the tight-knit group of characters, a bonus is that we’re seeing different sides of the Head Lopper himself. Instead of only having the severed head of the Blue Witch Agatha to be incessantly annoyed by for most of the story, Norgal has Zhaania Kota Ka and her pal Xho with him, and he’s much more willing to open up to them in conversation. There’s a certain point in Head Lopper #6 where Norgal sort of speaks out of line then admits his ignorance that really developed the character for me. It’s all a great move by writer Andrew Maclean. He’s put Norgal into a position which allows him organically to reveal more about himself, and that’s great writing.
The art style hasn’t changed any either, and I’d have it no other way. Writer/artist Maclean is still killing it here with his style that’s sometimes part Adventure Time and other times part Hellboy. Of particular note here is the color palettes used to show off the various tones of lighting throughout the rooms of the Crimson Tower. Some of the scenes here take place in fire-lit rooms, or in high windowed tower spaces, and the way the different shades of light are represented is really interesting. The section where the Fonga character is talking to the ruler of the tower is really interesting in this way, full of pale oranges and yellows, and of course shades of red for blood. There’s lots of blood pooling around the Crimson Tower.
We still haven’t learned much about the keeper of the Crimson Tower, so there’s still some mystery to the rest of this story. It might be a few months before we see Head Lopper #7, being a quarterly comic, but hey, at leas we can re-read issues 1-6 over and over again to keep us busy!
Verdict: The latest issue in Head Lopper is continuing an epic story of an epic hero. There’s no reason to pass on any issue of Head Lopper, people.
- More Head Lopping
- Small cast provides lens into characters
- Intimately told
- Narrative not as interconnected as the last volume