Owen was a barbarian warrior. He knew the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on his palate, the hot embrace of white arms and the mad exultation of battle, when the blue blades flame and crimson. He lived. He loved. He slayed. And he was content. At least, he was content up until a trio of witches came and gave Owen a choice: a quick death and an eternity in a hellish realm populated by every enemy he’d ever killed, or a life on their terms. Owen chose life and has regretted it ever since.
Now Owen is bound to an intelligent weapon, a magic axe named Axe, who will not shed blood unless wielded for the cause of good. To make matters worse, Axe is a mean drunk, who becomes intoxicated and surly after a good fight, and only Owen can seem to hear its voice. Thankfully, for the sake of Owen’s bloodlust, there’s no shortage of bad people who need killing and monsters that need slaying. Which is how Owen, reluctantly, comes to the aid of a good witch who needs help cleansing her temple.
As one might guess from the title, Barbaric is not a title for the faint of heart. It is bloody. It is vicious. At times, it is downright gruesome, nauseating, and to a certain class of people, outright offensive. It is also hilarious and easily the best satire of traditional sword-and-sorcery comics since the early days of Cerebus the Aardvark.
Michael Moreci treads well-traveled ground with his script, but puts a unique spin on material that might have otherwise proven tired or hackneyed. Other comedic fantasy series have tackled these story elements before, presenting their own sullen-browed, empty-headed, reluctant heroes with magic weapons that are smarter than they are. What marks Barbaric as unique is that Owen, for all his nasty and brutal ways, is far more than dumb muscle. It is not that he doesn’t understand the ways of civilized man. He just doesn’t have the patience to worry about morality and is content, to borrow a phrase from Robert E. Howard, to “let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion.” This makes it all the funnier when Axe speaks up to explain to Owen just why killing a man for stealing food to feed his family is not a killing offense, but enslaving children is.
The artwork by Nathan Gooden is appropriately visceral and gritty, given the subject matter. Despite this, there is surprisingly little of the excess one expects from fantasy comics aimed at adults. That is to say that Owen’s good-witch companion is respectably clad throughout the comic and there’s no forced-posed fan-service. The action sequences are well-blocked and the colors by Addison Duke suitably vivid.
Barbaric, vol. 1 is rated 17+ by Vault Comics and rightly so. There is nudity and sexual content in plenty. There is a healthy amount of profanity, blasphemy, and four-letter words. There are severed heads, severed limbs, one evil priest being cut in half and more blood and guts than a slasher-horror film festival. The prudish will not approve, but fans of dark fantasy will love it and eagerly anticipate Barbaric, vol. 2.
Barbaric, vol. 1: Murderable Offenses
By Michael Moreci
Art by Nathan Gooden
Publisher Age Rating: 17+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)