A first issue of a comic has a lot of heavy lifting to do, should the writer choose. One option some writers take is to get the backstory out of the way, leaving room for the actual story to flourish in future issues. The risk here is that of overloading a new reader with information, to the point they’re put off from continuing with the title. The second option is that chosen by Andrew Krahnke, writer and artist of Bloodrik #1, wherein there is basically no backstory at all. To call it minimal would be to say a skeleton is fat. And, after some thought, I think the issue is all the better for it.
Bloodrik #1 features the eponymous barbarian in all his magnificent glory – bestriding a snow blanketed wasteland, clad in a minimum amount of furs to expose colossally bulging muscles and an attitude of defiance to match. Bloodrik is basically a ball of hormonal rage, howling his defiance at an uncaring world. For the entirety of this opening issue, Bloodrik is in search of food, seemingly having stripped bare the forest he resides in of every living thing to sate his never ending thirst for violence and food.
In lots of ways, Bloodrik #1could be regarded as something of a satire on the genre. There’s nothing here of Conan’s brooding, thoughtful, even philosophical Cimmerian – indeed, Krahnke seems deliberately have taken all the tropes of the fur clad barbarian in sword and sorcery fiction – your Thongor, or your Brak the Barbarian, and turned it up to eleven. A crueller reviewer might say it’s a lot of blood and thunder, signifying…nothing?
Possibly. Regardless, it is a lot of fun, especially the balls out bear fight that ends the first story in Bloodrik #1, which is where Krahnke’s other talent, that of artist, comes to the fore. The artwork is extremely solid and dare I say, evocative. Evocative of the barbarian trope, and evocative of the landscape Bloodrik bestrides. If Tolken had a pastoral vision of fantasy, then Krahnke’s vision is one of man against nature, red in tooth and claw. The line work is bold and striking. The attention to detail – all those trees and renditions of animals – are lifelike and fill the panels pleasingly. He presents the reader with a stark landscape against which Bloodrik has to fight to survive. The colour palette is muted, as suits a wintry world waiting to emerge into the full bloom of spring. But Bloodrik will not be denied! The battle with the bear warps the page, escapes the confines of the panel and pits man against beast in some of the finest art you will see this year.
Bloodrik #1 comes with a back up story, told from the perspective of a sailor hanging on for dear life on a sinking ship, as sharks circle. This story is about Bloodrik’s singular vision, and again, it is demonstrated while he hunts. A lowly grouse becomes his target, and Bloodrik refuses to let it escape his arrow. Krahnke definitely is hitting the satire button here very hard, as a whole menagerie of animals proceeds to march past a stubborn Bloodrik as he endlessly waits for the grouse to emerge from behind a nearby tree. The artwork here is just as strong as the first story and the intent to be playful with the tropes of the heroic barbarian taking down a tiny bird is played to the hilt. The final page, where our soon to be food for the sharks sailor makes a wry comment, is definitely a fun moment in the issue.
If you’re serious about your sword and sorcery, or heroic fantasy, then perhaps Bloodrik #1 is a touch too playful. If you’re interested in a fun take on the genre, with some really strong artwork, and a premise that is getting ready to rock and roll, then Bloodrik #1 might be your (blood-drenched) cup of tea.