A bog-standard fantasy and sword & sorcery issue in terms of writing and plot, but one that's saved by incredible visual work.

Review: On the Backs of Monsters In TAARNA: THE LAST TAARAKIAN #3

Writer Stephanie Phillips is joined by artist Christian Rosado for this third monster and bloodshed-filled issue of “Taarna: The Last Taarakian” #3. This newest chapter in the Heavy Metal published comic series starring the cult classic heroine is an entertaining but completely predictable read in terms of its cosmic-fantasy script, but it’s held aloft by its incredible visual work and some really rad concepts. With colors from Jessica Kholinne and letters by Marshall Dillon, “Taarna” #3 is a relatively forgettable but still completely entertaining affair.

“The beginning of Act Two where Taarna, the lone protector of the multiverse, and her new ally are pushed to their limit to save a plnaet from destruction, while the chaotic leader called Urcuss takes his army to destroy everyone standing between them and the ultimate weapon for their lord and master, Kako!  This is the story of a millenia-old battle between godlike beings, with all sentient life caught in the path.”

Writing & Plot

It’s obvious how much Stephanie Phillips is drawing from her influences in “Taarna” #3, and I don’t necessarily mean this as a bad thing. Both in terms of plot and characterization, this comic feels like a mix of Gail Simone’s Wonder Woman and the classic Conan The Barbarian sword and sorcery stories. Taarna is most definitely inspired by the classic comics Amazon, albeit without the diplomacy and more willingly brutal. The story itself here is pretty formulaic; Taarna is hunting the trail of giant monsters and picks up a hapless survivor of a vicious attack by an army controlled by what we can only guess is a super powerful deity. The merciless march Urcuss’s army and Taarna’s first contact with them really reminded me of moments from Kurt Busiek’s run on Conan, which was cool but also a bit disappointing. I couln’t get through this book without thinking “I’ve read all this before.” The pieces are freshly assembled and on the board, but it’s just been a bit of a process getting to the height of the game. Phillips clearly understands how this medium functions fortunately, as her script stays out of the way with minimal dialogue and narration. Most speech bubbles consist of simple commands, questions, or declarations made up of few words. Instead, Phillips focuses much of this comic’s time on the regular sway of kinetic action that often takes up almost entire pages. This is a comic that plays into its strengths, using its 22-page runtime to quickly run through it entertaining but cliched story to focus on the grandiose moments that make it stand out.

Art Direction

The cosmic and kinetic visual show that this comic has had thus far continues in “Taarna” #3, this time with artist Christian Rosado at the helm on pencils. Rosado replaces artist Patrick Zircher, whose detailed and outstanding style crafted the visuals in the first two issues. Fortunately, Rosado has proven up to the task here, as this book looks just as outstanding as the last two did. Rosado’s thicker lines and more shadow-heavy accents distinguish his style plenty from Zircher’s but still look proper for this comic. There’s still an immense amount of character detail and momentum in the action sequences to carry this comic. His visual direction is spot on as well, with the sweeping and grandiose fight scenes looking like they’re moving at the speed of light on every panel. The fight choreography is simple, but the grace with which it’s portrayed makes this wildly impressive. So much of this beauty is brought to life by Jessica Kholinne’s deep and vivid colors. Her work here sells the alien environments with an endless array of staggering tones, with thick shades of color on every panel. Everything from the tangles fauna to the scorched dry lands of these distant planets looks like it could be walked on, and the way Kholinne handles movement, especially the movement of basically a deity, is full unlike anything I’ve seen in other comics. Kholinne pushes the idea that Taarna is almost bending reality as she fights, with arrays of color shooting past her. The lettering from Marshall Dillon is a dynamic and modern font that is easy to read and carries the narrative and dialogue in this comic very well. In visual terms, this continues to be an absolute standout series.

“Taarna: The Last Taarakian” #3 is a solidly entertaining and gorgeously drawn comic that suffers from a derivative plat that seems to be spinning its wheels. The script feels like it’s putting all of the pieces together and bringing all the cards to the table, but it’s taking its time in really taking off. The visual work is once again an outstanding display however, and is a reason to buy this issue on its own. If you’re a fan of the cult classic Heavy Metal heroine, then pick up this latest chapter when it hits shelves on 2-24!

Justin Munday
Justin Munday
Reader and hoarder of comics. Quietly sipping coffee, reading, and watching sci-fi in Knoxville, TN.
A bog-standard fantasy and sword & sorcery issue in terms of writing and plot, but one that's saved by incredible visual work.Review: On the Backs of Monsters In TAARNA: THE LAST TAARAKIAN #3