There have been quite a few parodies of Robert E. Howard’s seminal barbarian creation over the years. From cartoons like Korgoth the Barbarian to comics like Sergio Aragonés’ Groo the Wanderer, the son Cimmeria has been lampooned almost to the point where the word “barbarian” and “Conan” are basically synonymous. British comic creator Carl Critchlow takes a similar approach with THRUD THE BARBARIAN, playing up the barbaric stereotypes of his character (small head, slow-witted, huge muscles) but with a sly twist of Monty Python-esque humor.
As you might expect from such a combo, nothing in this comic is to to be taken too seriously. From minotaurs, ice trolls and giant snakes to ancient demons, evil wizards or cursed warriors – most problems in Thrud’s world can be solved with a simple THWOP of his mighty axe. Luckily for us, Critchlow never uses that to cheapen the story in favor of the far more entertaining consequences of Thrud’s simple quest for food, beer and bloody carnage (not necessarily in that order).
As a collection of the five single issues that have been published (to date) this book reads very much as an anthology, with each new “chapter” taking place in a new locale including the frozen wastelands of the Mountains of Menace and the Temple of the Sun God buried deep in a sweltering jungle. There are also new characters that come and go, each playing off Thrud’s simple-mindedness and often meeting untimely demises as a result.
The book also contains several pieces of bonus material including original cover at, early Thrud comic strips by Critchlow from Valkyrie Quarterly and White Dwarf and a few sketches/concept art. It’s a much appreciated inclusion given how rare such bonus material is in most graphic novels and shows an interesting progression of Critchlow’s artwork from the original shorts to the full comics.
Speaking of which, the artwork in Thrud reminded me a lot of Keith Giffen – specifically his unique art style on his 90s comic Trencher – and James Stokoe (Orc Stain). Relying heavily on linework to create various shadows and textures, it’s cartoony but never feels as disjointed as Trencher did which is a good thing. Critchlow’s keeps his panels fairly simple, adding just enough detail that it never obscures what’s happening. Likewise the coloring, also by Critchlow I assume) does a nice job of complimenting the linework.
OUT OF 5
If fantasy and fantasy parodies are your thing, then this book packs just the right amount of clever sight gags, solid scripting and gleefully gruesome head-lopping to keep you entertained.
+ Monty Python style buffoonery
+ Plenty of action and comedy
+ Bonus material
– Thrud is a a bit of a one-dimensional character