While maintaining his relationship with his twelve-year old daughter, aging basketball player and brawler Nash Gliven, Jr. finds himself tasked with burying his estranged mother and sorting through the house full of secrets and memories she left behind. As if this isn’t enough responsibility for a man who’s dedicated his entire life to playing ball and punching people, there are a bunch of vampires next door planning a bloody holiday followed by world domination.
Nash’s plans to quickly set his mother’s affairs in order fall apart when he and his daughter, Willie, find themselves caught up in the bloodthirsty schemes of the undead Count Dracula himself. While Nash—known as “The Knife” or “Old Head” depending who you ask—does what he does best and punches every ugly monster that shows its face, Willie, on the other hand, has yet to discover whether she’s inherited the fighting grit of her bloodline. Burdened by questions and regrets, Nash must come to terms with his own life while also uncovering the family legacy placing him at the center of Dracula’s plot. Father and daughter may be necessary pieces in Dracula’s rise to power—but they’re also the only thing standing in his way. And neither plans to go down without a fight.
Starks has defined a style of storytelling for himself and Old Head is no exception. It knows what it’s here to deliver—violence, one liners, adult humor, and a bit more violence for good measure—and dives in with reckless abandon. The comic quickly establishes Nash and the family legacy he’s a part of, dedicating most of its relatively quick length to Gliven family history and a whole lot of monster fighting. There are some tender threads of connection woven throughout, and some nice payoffs as the story unfolds, but once it gets going, the action in Old Head doesn’t let up as it charges toward the final conflict where the fate of humanity will be decided.
Humor and mayhem come to vibrant life in Starks’s cartoonish art style. Panels of brawling and dismemberment shift from gruesome to entertaining with his sharp lines and distinct artistic style. Character emotion comes through clearly and the frequent bits of situational humor are delivered with a storyteller’s eye. With Starks handling writing and art together, he makes full use of the medium and shapes the story into exactly what he wants it to be.
With its humor and content, Old Head is clearly aimed at an adult audience, and that is where the appeal will mostly lie, as reflected in the publisher’s Mature rating and the gore-drenched panels of the story’s second half. It’s a particular brand of entertainment suited only to some, but for anyone who has enjoyed Starks’s work on Rick and Morty or his previous graphic series Rock Candy Mountain, Old Head delivers a healthy heaping of ridiculous and fast paced comic-horror-action that readers will be looking for.
All in all, Old Head isn’t a work of comics genius, but it doesn’t pretend to be. It’s the story of a guy trying to beat up some monsters, fire off some snappy comebacks, and do right by his family. If that sounds like it’s up your alley, then journey into the night with Old Head and buckle in for the ride. The action doesn’t stop until the final buzzer sounds.
By Kyle Starks
Publisher Age Rating: M
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)
Character Representation: Black