cover image Birdking, Vol. 1

Birdking, Vol. 1

Daniel Freedman and CROM. Dark Horse, $19.99 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-5067-2607-6

Freedman and CROM reunite (after Raiders) to forge another fanciful dark fantasy populated by evil sorcerers, fallen kings, and magical swordsmiths. Bianca, a boisterous hammer-swinging, statue-smashing blacksmith’s apprentice, questions why she’s the only youth not sent off to war by the kingdom’s ruler, Aghul. She longs for adventure despite her master Thonir’s warnings about the horrors at the front. When Thonir is ordered by Aghul to fetch rare ore to repair a magical “wraith weapon,” Bianca’s delighted at the opportunity to finally see the world she’s only read about in books. But then Aghul’s henchmen insult Thonir upon his delivery of the restored sword, and Bianca attacks them; in the resulting tussle, she’s burned in a transformative fire, revealing that she’s secretly from the rare “Sintered” tribe—with “embers in her.” This sets the henchmen after her and sends Bianca on the run. Accompanying her is Birdking, a once forgotten ruler now given new life by the wraith weapon. CROM’s character designs are memorable, and he balances cartoony and artsy details with dramatic battle scenes. The rough inking style and Moebius-lite aesthetic recalls Andrew MacLean’s Head Lopper series. Though the plot leaves many unanswered questions, this energetic series opener will keep readers on the lookout for the next one. (Sept.)