Norgal and Agatha Blue Witch return in issue #9 of Head Lopper, the first part of “Head Lopper and the Knights of Venora.” So how good is the next issue of Andrew MacLean’s tour de force?
Head Lopper is one of the more unique books published by Image. Instead of using the usual Image format, Head Lopper is a series of 4 issue stories, with each of the issues released quarterly. The downside is waiting three months for the next part to drop. Of course, the upside is that each part is much bigger than the usual fare.
This issue does a lot of things. Firstly, it finally explains how Norgal came to possess the severed head of Agatha Blue Witch. Honestly, this was not how I expected it to have happened, and I don’t even know if it’s what happened or not. It does make me view Agatha in a different light, though. The issue shows how much the tragic events of Head Lopper and the Crimson Tower had on Norgal without ever feeling like it has to explain what happened. Then the story slowly adds action, political intrigue and the foreboding of what appears to be a mastermind preparing to come out of the shadows. In many ways, this issue sets up the rest of volume 3, but there’s still enough for it to work well on its own.
MacLean’s style is so distinctive in Head Lopper. It doesn’t care about realism and embraces that fact. The work is very fluid as many characters, especially Norgal, are drawn in many different ways while always being recognizable and embodying the spirit of the characters. I love how simple the art can become while still being clear and conveying everything that MacLean wants it to. It even embraces being a comic in terms of things like how effects are used or using directions to guide you through the panel order. Many modern artists’ work is getting closer and closer to reality while MacLean revels in running away from it.
Jordie Bellaire is a perfect fit as the colorist for Head Lopper. Like the line work, the colors can often be quite simple and understated, but it always complements the art and builds on that fluid style. I especially like how he handled the second half of the Agatha flashback, and how he uses limited palettes of a few colors or mostly shades of one color. The lettering, from Erin MacLean, also adds to the feel of the book. The way that a character’s speech changes at one point is a really great touch to put across duplicity. The lettering makes it clear which different characters are speaking in some scenes without any flashy effects.
Issue #9 of Head Lopper is a great start to the third arc. It sets the stage while giving you a lot to think about in the three month wait for the next issue. All aspects of the art are so fluid and yet everything always has the same identity and feeling that makes Head Lopper feel like a throwback comic at times. It doesn’t care about looking consistent or accurate, it wants to tell an exciting and interesting story. That’s something that this issue achieves in spades.