Review: Head Lopper #4

And so it ends, the most epic fantasy best-bros story since Legolas and Gimli went off to explore Fangorn Forrest. Ok, so technically in this case one of the bros is the head of a blue skinned witch, but I stand by my literary analysis (see, my liberal arts education wasn't wasted, I can confidently defend dumb opinions).  Fans of the first three issues won't be surprised by just about anything that happens in this issue (honestly, neither will anyone who read the title of the book), but it's a stylish, fitting end to a very fun book. Head Lopper #4 finds Norgal and Agatha journeying deep into the swamp in search of answers which they receive in the form of a long fantasy flashback. That flashback, which front end the issue, slows the story down immensely with some info that we don't really need (we already basically have the character of Lulach down after last issue's flashback, and while the plot here is important, it could be shorter). After that though, things kick into high gear as Norgal faces off against the sorcerer Barra in a fight that rapidly grows in scope over a delightfully extended sequence of battle.

Head-Lopper-#4Never before has Hellboy's influence on Head Lopper been more keenly felt as the pacing, designs, and expository style feel lifted directly from some of the better Hellboy stories. In one case when the villain undergoes a startling transformation, I was taken aback by how much the monster resembles a few of Mignola's iconic designs. Unfortunately, this comparison, while not by any mean unearned, highlights how much better Mignola is than Maclean at selling the drama and stakes of the piece. While I was entertained throughout, there's never any real sense of dread or danger to the character in Head Lopper.  The flip side of this is that Maclean specializes in a cartoony, slapstick sense of humor that Hellboy's doom and gloom only sometimes has space for.

I think the problem is that, in order to wrap up the story and give a sense of the epic, Maclean doubles down on the epic and grim and loses the thread of the humor a little bit (though there is one interaction with a recently beheaded skeleton that is hilarious). In the long run, it's probably not that big of a deal. The action is top-notch, the violence is suitably over the top, preserving the cartoony physicality that makes the book so fun even while the jokes are somewhat absent. Frankly, as great as the writing has been, it's the art that makes Head Lopper special, and it's hard to be disappointed in an issue this beautiful

In the end, it's not the best issue of the series, but that's frankly not saying much in a series that has been this good. In every major way, Maclean sticks the landing nicely, creating a cohesive, exciting story. The final page contains the promise of more Head Lopper to come in the form of an expanded collection and a new series next year, and I, for one, can't wait for more.

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Head Lopper #4
Author/Artist: Andrew Maclean
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $5.99
Release Date: 6/8/16
Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital