Barbaric: Axe To Grind, a comic that is equal parts amusing and savage, was published by Vault Comics. It was written by Michael Moreci and illustrated by Nathan Gooden. The main character, a barbarian who has been cursed for all time to serve the world, aid the poor, and do good, no matter the cost and no matter the amount of blood he pours, enriches the sword and sorcery plot.
His axe, on the other hand, is a mythical talking axe that has an ambivalent connection with our barbarian and enjoys blood. On the surface, the comic appears to be graphically stunning and features a fast-paced story with action, supernatural threats, and a complex scheme to obliterate civilization by engulfing it in darkness. We will examine this captivating and beautiful work in this video before speculating on the reasons you should add it to your reading list. Shall we get started?
The Curse and The Witch
The comic opens on a filthy, dusty planet where a variety of animals and humanoids can be seen indulging in hedonistic activities. According to the first panel alone, the scene appears to be a settled middle eastern countryside with camels and individuals wearing white dresses. However, in this instance, a priest is shown warning the spectators in a gladiatorial arena that their lord and saviour was going to pass judgement on them. He continues and says that sinners, there are so many of us! You must believe that God up there is not paying attention.
The days of sin having no repercussions, I am here to tell you, are over. The long-bearded priest seems to have located the ideal executioner to carry out the terrible justice of the so-called lord. It is interesting to note that the priest constructs a bridge of adoration before allowing our protagonist/anti-hero to cross it. The priest refers to him as their lord’s shield and axe and the bloodiest warrior in all of Gimesh. And there we have him, right in the next panel, Owen the Barbarian… a man with a bear so thick that it looked like a lion’s mane, and a pair of eyes that could make even the strongest of warriors piss their pants.
But Owen’s most interesting feature was his axe, a battle axe that had a demonic face on one side and a sharp blade on the other. It turns out that the priest had bought Owen as a slave and was now sending him to fight a gladiatorial battle against three men. However, Owen reveals his secret to the priest and says, “I am bound, by magic more powerful than whatever shit stain god you worship, to always do what’s right!” So, the priest strives to satisfy Owen’s curse and tells the stories of the three men he was going to fight.
The first was a trader of illegal spice, probably drugs, who forced children to his nefarious biddings. The second was a drunkard, who once beat an innocent woman to death, because he stumbled into the wrong house and thought that he had found his wife in bed with another man.
The third man, a simple-looking bloke, was accused of stealing food from the market. If you’ll notice here, artist Nathan Gooden paints the comic with all the elements of a fancy setting and tone, but on the other hand, writer Michael Moreci draws a balance between fantasy and modern sensibility in the way he handles modern social issues, such as abuse of children, treatment of women, and poverty.
Nevertheless, it is here that the viewers first witness Owen’s bloodthirsty axe speak. It agrees with killing the first two sinners, but believes that a trivial crime like stealing food cannot be reason enough for a man’s execution. The priest, of course, gets surprised at the sight of a man speaking to his axe, but Owen does not give two cents worth of thought to him. Owen tells the priest that he’d kill the first two and let the third one live; after an initial disagreement, the priest seconds Owen.
The Barbarian had no intention of slaying the food thief and told him that he should walk away if he wanted to live, and the thief was more than happy to do so. Owen and his axe, with red eyes and sharp teeth, ran into battle. With a simple swing of the axe, he severed the drunkard’s arm, and broke the spice dealer’s hand by simply crushing it with his bare hands. There were punches, broken bones, severed heads, and a great deal of blood – blood that was quenching the thirst of Owen’s talking axe.
It was almost as if the axe saw the human nectar of life as a drunkard sees alcohol. Blood got the axe high. After the two criminals were slaughtered, Owen’s Axe spoke once again. It was of the opinion that a man who forces another to kill just to prove the maniacal and vengeful nature of a god, should be killed… and Owen had to slay the priest, for the Axe’s words were Owen’s command. This sequence of events sets the perfect stage for Owen’s dynamic introduction, and also sets the tone for the rest of the comic; it becomes apparent that one would get to see a whole lot of blood, mayhem and monsters. Owen explains that before three witches cursed him, he used to be a barbarian, and a good one at that.
His life was simple, and he would drink, fight, and make love. He would make love to giants and reptilian women, he would kill all kinds of monsters and humans, and he would drink more. Interestingly, one of the panels shows Owen holding the severed head of Medusa herself, yeah, the snake lady! The panel tells us how very skilled a fighter Owen used to be, and still is. Owen loved this simple lifestyle, one without any compulsion and boundaries. However, one night Owen and three of his mates were carrying out a job deep into the sea.
It was a stormy night, and thunder was rumbling in the sky, but Owen got the shock of his life when the three men he considered friends turned out to be witches. Despite all his skills and power, he was overwhelmed by the witches with ease. One of them stuck a poisoned knife into his belly. But the witches did not want to kill Owen outright, and they offered him a choice. But first, they showed him a vision of hell itself. In there, Owen saw all his enemies engulfed in an ocean of fire, in pain, but full of rage.
Now, Owen had to make a simple choice between withering to dust and dedicating his life to servitude, taking all of the world’s people as his master. He was to answer the cries of help and help those in distress. Owen had no choice but to accept the terms of his curse, lest he wished to spend an eternity in pain and suffering. However, the witches also told him that he was all but a small fraction of a larger whole. So, this was how Owen the Barbarian became the servant of all things good, forced to leave his former life and serve the people.
In the present time, Owen found himself sitting in a pub and talking to his axe, when he heard a group of people attempting to burn a woman named Soren on charges of being a witch. Interestingly, the woman kept telling her captors that they were all in danger, but none would listen. The axe ordered Owen to go and check out the situation, and Owen obeyed. Owen tried to reason with the locals, but then something strange happened.
A couple of dead hands reached out from beneath the Earth and grabbed the Barbarian’s leg! It turns out that the woman about to be burned was speaking the truth! But then, she also turned her chains to dust and unshackled herself, only to use magic against the several dead men who a higher evil power had raised. She was indeed a witch. Having had a disastrous experience with witches, Owen did not want to work with another, but he could not take down all the undead on his own. The two of them and the axe fought hard and with ferociousness.
And when the battle was over, Owen started walking away, only to be stopped by Soren. The axe also reminded Owen that helping the woman was a good thing to do, and Owen did not have a choice. Strangely, among all the people Owen had met, she was the only one who could hear the axe. Anyway, what Soren showed him next, shocked him to his bones! Owen saw a demon covering a monastery like a cloud! Seeing this, the Axe delivered its command and said, “It’s our problem to deal with, us and the witch.”
The Dead Don’t Bleed
The second issue of this thrilling comic takes things to a whole different level, as far as the lore and gore are concerned. In the last issue, Owen and Soren found themselves surrounded by corpses of their enemies, and a demonic cloud was hanging over the local house of worship. But there was much else that Owen the Barbarian did not understand, and even Soren had little idea about what was happening. But she showed Owen whatever little she knew.
So, Soren was born with the powers of a necromancer, and when she was a child, her mother and the villagers blamed her for her father’s death. Naturally, she fled from her home and started to believe that her powers were a disease that needed to be cured. Nevertheless, Soren could revive everything that once existed or lived, including memories. During her quest to find a cure for her powers, she came by the abbey engulfed by the demonic cloud, and she thought the monks from the abbey could cure her. But she could not be more wrong.
She stayed there for several months and did whatever the monks asked her to do. She prayed for endless hours, meditated with utmost concentration, and even starved herself. But all her sacrifices were tossed away, when she came to know of someone called the Abbot. Funnily enough, the axe interrupts Soren at this point and asks if the story has any nudity involved. Unfortunately for all of us, it did not. She had heard that the Abbot was known to bless the dead and save the damned.
This made the Abbot possibly the only one who could absolve Soren and remove her powers. However, the monks never allowed her to look at him, as if he was a ghost or someone who did not exist, but she knew that he did. One night, she heard a certain chanting of the words ABIN APEN ZOR, and followed the voice to a chamber beneath the earth. She tells Owen about a world beneath the world of the living, a place that’s buried in darkness, a place where god’s light doesn’t reach. It was the world of the damned. But Soren saw something she was not supposed to, a gathering of people possessed by the dead, but these dead and damned souls were not the usual kinds.
It was as if the possessed had been taken over by the ghost of Satan himself. They tried to burn Soren, which is when she met Owen. All three of them realised that they had a task at their hand and undead ghosts to slay. Soren, Owen, and the axe reached the abbey, which now was little more than a giant icicle. It seemed that everything had been drained from the abbey and its parts, all the happiness, the warmth.
All that remained there now was perpetual gloom and a feeling of despair. In fact, even the monks had been frozen to death, like literally frozen to death. Soon, they came before a giant pit, and a possessed Abbot may have been taken down there. It was a pit like no other, with snakes and skulls spread all over, like it was a garden of bones and death. Interestingly enough, by now, Soren and Owen had started bonding. I mean, Soren was telling Owen how he was not all bad, and Owen revealed how she was different and warmer than other necromancers.
But all this chit chat was about to come to a brutish end. They reached a point quite deep into the pit, and voices of all kinds came swirling from all sides. It was as if hundreds of flying ghosts surrounded them, and rightly enough they were surrounded. However, Owen drew his axe and started slaying the dead with his mystical weapon. Although the axe was disappointed because the dead did not have any blood in them, I mean, it was actually cribbing about it. But there were too many of them.
Realizing that they had been outnumbered, Owen asked his new friend to follow him to an opening, and asked her to seal the mouth of this opening with magic. When they walked to the other side from there, they found themselves standing before a giant, ancient structure. But who could have built such a structure beneath an abbey, and why? But something happened to Soren in this strange place, her eyes had become as dark as a pool of obsidian, and she claimed to feel the enormous amounts of death in that place. In reality, Soren had been overwhelmed under the force of her own powers, which had magnified manifolds in the presence of so many dead souls.
Interestingly enough, the Abbot too was present there and he seemed to be controlling the demonic forces. It wasn’t before long that he transformed into a giant creature with the torso of a human, but everything else was reptilian. Owen charged toward the Abbot, intending to slay him, but to his utter shock and surprise, Soren attacked him. So, what was up with this woman? Let’s find that out in the next and final issue of the comic.
Must Return to the Light
It turns out that the Abbott was possessed by a powerful entity, as we had speculated earlier. Under its influence, Abbott wanted the damned souls to be reunited with the light of god, or rather a twisted version of god. But the path to achieving such goals would have been catastrophic for humanity. Clearly, concepts like good and evil are depicted as highly subjective; one man’s terrorist is another man’s revolutionary… and the words divine and justice seem to lose their meaning the more we try to understand them, and when put together, the phrase divine justice becomes a grander mess than just about anything else.
In this case, Abbott believed that the creator was responsible for the monstrosity of the damned souls, because these souls had been abandoned by their creator, and left to rot in a dark place. The Abbott wanted to be the one to guide these lost souls closer to light, but in the process, got distracted and made it his life’s goal to smother the world in darkness. Abbott’s mind was filled with a vague notion of morality, which was ultimately derived from a vague notion of a god. However misplaced Abbott’s sense of morality must be, the world of the damned was every bit a reality.
But by now, Soren was losing control of herself and her sanity, giving in to the sheer power that the damned souls brought her. The axe asked Owen to kill the necromancer, but Owen refused, remembering how Soren had been betrayed by those close to her, including her mother.
It was these betrayals that had turned Soren from an innocent girl to someone who believed she was a curse to people around her. Owen knew that he had to take charge of the situation, and so he did. The barbarian went on a rampage once again, slaying every damned and cursed soul he could find. However, he was just one man with a magical axe, and was getting heavily outnumbered. Meanwhile, Soren’s body was turning dark, meaning she was getting possessed by her own powers. Owen had an epiphany, and he had to destroy the huge bulb on the top of the ancient structure to free Soren from its clutches.
He flung his axe and it struck the light source, obliterating it. The plan worked, and Soren was freed from the evil darkness that clouded her mind. She did manage to destroy all the damned souls, including Abbott; but this led to a gigantic issue. A mammoth snake made its presence known to Owen and Soren. Although Owen tried to slay the giant beast, and his axe was loving the blood of an ancient giant snake, they all had to exit the abbey immediately because the walls were coming down.
And, of course, they did not want to remain trapped there. Somehow, they managed to get out of the abbey just in time to watch it collapse. Owen begins to take his leave when Soren expresses her wish to join him in his adventures, something that Owen initially does not agree to. However, he gives in when she tells him how much she valued the fact that he stood up for her when no one else did, not even her own mother. The comic ends with Owen meeting his old friend Steel, who a vampire had bitten. Steel asked Owen for help, and the latter had no choice but to go on his adventure, but this time he was not alone. He had a companion, well, another companion apart from a talking axe.
Why Should You Read It?
All in all, the story and style of Barbaric are something to be excited about. The comic succeeds the most in the antagonistic relationship that the protagonist and his axe share. Fortunately enough, the writer ensured that he made their conversations genuinely funny. As for the art, Gooden has done a stunning job throughout, especially acing the fight scenes, which have obnoxious amounts of blood splattering, and body parts flying off. If you ask me, this was one of the best comics that I have read in quite a while now. Highly recommended!