Battleaxes #1-4 (of 4)
[Vertigo/DC Comics $2.50 US $3.95 CAN]
Written by Terry Laban / Illustrated by Alex Horley
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Battleaxes plops you smack dab in the middle of the 8th century A.D. when men were men and women were expected to wait on them. In this mini-series we meet the women of one Northern tribe that allowed its females to train as warriors. Hrotha, widow of the tribeís chief, wants to be the new chief. She is challenged by Gunnar, a warrior who wants to get rid of the tradition of training women to fight and institute Christianity as the tribeís dominant religion. Through treachery, Gunnar defeats Hrotha who is then forced to flee with her daughter, Freya. They are accompanied by Sigga and Brunna, battle hardened warriors who are also lovers and Skold, a Druidess in training.
Our intrepid band sets out to the Eastern lands to make their way as warriors for hire. At first they donít have any luck finding employment. The Eastern world isnít any more ready to accept them than the Western world was. The women soon get lucky, however, when they come across a village thatís been pillaged by Tenguts. After being accosted by soldiers who were supposed to be protecting the village, the women decide to disguise themselves as Tenguts and scare up some work. To accomplish this task they charge into the encampment of Birzenian forces led by Prince Alexis and kidnap said Prince. The Prince being a fair-minded man is impressed by their skills and agrees to introduce the women to his father, The Emperor.
To make a four-issue mini-series short, the Emperor and his court are not quite as open-minded as Prince Alexis and while the women do gain employment they end up in the middle of a political/religious plot involving a nasty, Cthulhu-esque god that threatens to end the world as they know it.
The story in Battleaxes is given the Xena/Hercules touch with a lot of anachronistic attitudes and speech patterns on the part of the characters. It works in Xena but it didnít do much for me in Battleaxes. The characters are, for the most part, not very likeable with the exception of Prince Alexis and Skold. The other heroes, Hrotha, Freya, Sigga and Bruuna are little more than caricatures of women warriors. Take away their feminine physical attributes and they would be indistinguishable from a typical, uncouth band of male warriors.
The artwork in Battleaxes is strong on storytelling and comically rendered violence and since itís under the Vertigo imprint you also get a fair share of exposed breasts. Alex Horley did the painted covers to the series and I would have liked the artwork more if he had done the interiors in the same painted style. The images on the covers were more striking and had more depth. Hopefully Vertigo will utilize Horleyís painting skills in future stories.
If youíre a die-hard fan of Terry Laban then definitely pick up Battleaxes. But for the rest of us I can safely say wait for the bargain bin. The characters and story in Battleaxes suffer from trying to be tongue-in-cheek yet action-packed and serious. The attempts at humor werenít funny and the adventure story wasnít that interesting.
This mini-series should still be available for reorder so bug your local shop owner if youíre hankering to give it a try. Visit the DC Comics web site at www.dccomics.com. You can learn more about Terry Laban and his work at www.labanarama.com.