|Head Lopper was every damn thing I wanted it to be and more. Equal parts, Conan, Adventure Time, Walt Simonson's Thor and Mike Mignola's monster melees.
But MacLean's work here is more than just a convincing alchemy of influences, he uses what inspires him as a springboard but then forges his own distinct, startlingly original angular style. Art-wise the closest style I can think of is Gabriel Bá but that's only because they both seem to have used Mignola as a jumping off point and then extrapolated from his wacked out DNA their own mutant brands.
Point is, when you see a MacLean drawing you know that's what you're looking at. And like the best artists his view of the world renders everything so differently that I could spend the day wondering how he would depict such and such character or how he would tackle a certain genre. That's what I love about great comic book storytelling and style and it's on full display herein.
Head Lopper comes in 4 massive tomes, it bills itself as "A Quarterly Adventure Comic" which sets the tone to follow. This is action-packed storytelling that provides at least one jaw-dropper of exquisite violence per issue. And exquisite isn't just some flashy modifier here, check out issue one's battle with the gigantic wolves, the way MacLean handles the beheading turns the barbarous act into ballet.
And dude, book's called Head Lopper, heads get lopped, if I ruined that for you here steer clear of Battling Boy too, you'd be surprised how often that kid gets into some sort of scrape.
The style of the comic is crisp and clean which dials down the gross out factor of rampant beheadings and the like and instead allows the reader to marvel at the pagan pageantry of stylized fictional swordplay. Seriously, the blood fountains here would make Evil Dead 2 and Riki-Oh: The Story of Riki blush. The blood in Head Lopper shoots up in mighty crimson geysers that envelop the titular hero, framing him perfectly as a red silhouette waving the sword responsible for all the carnage above its crimson cap in cartoon grisly victory.
Because this comic book about a big warrior dude and his sidekick, a severed witch's head named Agatha who's a real wiseacre and not to be trusted, knows its purpose and that is to be fun.
It's not a bloodless sort of fun like Adventure Time (obviously) but it isn't a grim and gritty slog either as Game of Thrones knockoffs tend to be. It finds its balance and never becomes a parody or a satire or deconstruction of fantasy conventions, it is simply a celebration of them that also has a keen sense of humor. It doesn't need to wink at you constantly about how crazy or silly its concepts are, the humor is richer and stems from the characterization or the randomness of human observations during battle.
These 4 issues stand as ground shaking drawbridge drop into a new world of endlessly imaginative monsters, sinister sorcerers, distant embattled lands and a laconic hero with a fast-talking blue witch's head for a partner who might be trying to kill him.
What are you waiting for, storm the damn castle.