Say what you want about Battleworld, but you can’t deny it has a range of genres to explore. From straight-forward superheroics to post-apocalyptic futures and far-flung pasts, creators are going absolutely wild with this premise. But Weirdworld might just be the wildest of all.

Here, Arkon the Barbarian encounters more troubles on his quest to find his home world of Polemachus, but real danger may be that he’s caught the attention of the Baron of Weirdworld, Morgan le Fay.

As with many of the Secret Wars tie-ins, there’s a lot you’re going to have to take for granted in order to dive into the world. Too much scrutiny into the set-up and it falls apart as you fall down a plot-logic hole. We can assume that Polemachus was destroyed in the collapse of the multiverse prior to Secret Wars, but then how exactly does Arkon survive? And if so, then why, and why deposit him on Weirdworld? And… well, really. Akron?

That part of the backstory isn’t as important, perhaps, as the setting of Weirdworld itself. Lavishly depicted through painterly art that’s unlike much of what’s offered today, it’s both reminiscent of the high fantasy books of the 70s (and thus its namesake, the previous Weirdworld of Marvel Premiere and Epic Illustrated) and also of modern comicbook techniques. There is an absence of black ink to delineate the line, and instead a white line is favored, creating an eerie, otherworldly and dreamlike feel. The gutters are much more thin than customary, fitting more art on the page but without sacrificing layout.

That feeling is enhanced, of course, by the landscape and character designs, too. Creative ideas that manage to never descend into pure silliness, like Gun Ogres and underwater apes, are depicted powerfully and with distinction.  

For some reason, I was going into this book expecting something humorous, more akin to Squirrel Girl. Perhaps it’s because I think Arkon is pretty much a joke anyway. Honestly, I hate this character for some reason. (Well, probably several reasons that aren’t that important for this review.) But actually I found something more subtle— the tropes of the fantasy world are played lovingly straight, which creates some pretty high stakes. This is not a lighthearted parody of Arkon/Conan/Barbarian heroes; there’s a full splash page of the character contemplating suicide, which I take pretty seriously. And one which uses the art superbly to match the tone and character beat– the use of vertical panels that are framed by the cliff face itself, and that lead into the vertical splashes of the dragon leaping upward.

Still, it’s hard to get a real grasp on Arkon’s portrayal here. We care about him going home, I guess, because we know what that’s like, we all care about getting home, but that’s pretty superficial when you think about it. He’s morose when we first see him, then selfless when he needs to be in order to move into the next scene. Likewise our villain, who, admittedly we only see for the cliffhanger, is mustache-twirly evil. The lesser villains, just dumb ogres. The character and plots here are probably a secondary reason to enjoy this book, and perhaps for a younger demographic, it might be pure fun to just enjoy crystal dragons and magma men and gun ogres.

At the very least, readers of all levels can find the setting and art as compelling reasons to keep picking it up.

Grade

B

Conclusion

A very pleasant surprise in my reading stack this week. The main character really is the titular “Weirdworld,” as the setting provides something that feels fresh and modern while being classic and retro at the same time. The actual characters are pretty thinly portrayed, however, and perhaps aren’t as distinguished as the setting itself. Maybe if a more recognized hero were in Arkon’s place, there would be more to offer. Or, you know, maybe you could just read Image Comics' Kaptara instead. Or in addition to.