Andrew MacLean’s masterful sword and sorcery style adventure Head Lopper is back this week in its fifth quarterly installment, but it’s the first issue in a new arc of 4, following on from the first trade collection, which is currently out. This new arc, called “Head Lopper and the Crimson Tower” really shows some storytelling expansion from MacLean. We have already been trained to expect travel, wide-ranging comic and literary motifs, and an anything-can-happen atmosphere, but this new arc seems to crystalize the elements of Head Lopper we’ve come to love in a narrower focus, and one with a very sharp point. MacLean is joined by Jordie Bellaire on colors, which really opens up the visual world of Head Lopper further, and it’s a vibrant, funny, and cruel world that we find.
[Cover B by Tony Sandoval]
MacLean’s realism in character depiction captures the attention this issue, including a realism in how characters interact with each other, and the things which motivate them. The Crimson Tower is going to be a real punch in the gut as well as a thrill as our characters face an ancient challenge to conquer the tower and become its lord. But it’s a juggernaut that’s been set up by less than altruistic motives and in fact, things are fairly sadistic, it turns out. Who will live and who will die? That remains to be seen. But blood will flow, hence the “crimson” in the Crimson Tower. Bellaire knows how to bring the blood.
Well, before the focus on the tower, there’s plenty of decapitation, so fans of “old-school” Head Lopper, which was only a couple of quarterlies ago, will rejoice. Also the lovely sea-faring and pirate art that opens the issue is poster-worthy on its own. Without giving too much away, this issue will also take MacLean’s artwork into the realm of engineering in a new way, which will no doubt cause a fair amount of squeeing from different areas of fandom.
Head Lopper proves, as a comic, that you can have it all. Great adventure. Terrible violence. Beautiful art. Plenty of laughs. And even some nice, grim, ominous stuff. That suggests a kind of mythological weight underpinning this story world.
Here’s to the return of Head Lopper. Proceed with caution into the Crimson Tower!
Also look out for an excellent pin-up gallery at the end of this quarterly issue, including work by Victor Santos, John Maybury, and more.