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Jonan the Barbarian (review)

Creator: Abel Alvarez Rejo

2020 is in desperate need of some good self-ironic comedy. Look no further than Jonan the Barbarian, a comic by writer and artist Abel Alvarez Rejo. Jonan is an obvious spoof on the classic and quite serious sword and sorcery concept, Conan the Barbarian (created by Robert E. Howard in 1932). Like all good barbarian-style stories, it involves a quest of vengeance through the clash of steel, but in this instance the title character, Jonan, seeks to avenge the destruction of a vase of daisies.

This title is the vehicle for some goofy, genuinely funny humour. For a story set in ostensibly a magical pre-history, creator Abel Alvarez Rejo includes David Hasselhoff jokes, embarrassing music playlists, the politics of tipping, corporate villainy, and “abusing analepsis” (surely one of the best gags of the lot, and beautifully executed).

Characterisation is deliberately stereotyped. Jonan is not especially bright and has a pathological hatred of flashbacks; Shula the “mercenary warrior monk” (who is actually female) is a martial artist possessing skills with titles that mock the pretention of Chinese kung fu moves (“Crazy Mule Punch! Sad Platypus Fist!”); the all-powerful Dark Lord is actually a reasonable guy who seems to be the jilted party in a gay relationship with a very jokey Grim Reaper, and who holds an annual vegan basket raffle while telling his minions his plans via a PowerPoint presentation.

The art is simple. Jonan has almost no features at all, and so is quite inscrutable. Most of Jonan’s communication to the other cast members and to the reader is through his actions – a clever way of conveying that we are dealing with a man with few thoughts in his head. Facial expressions exclusively reside with the often-bemused Shula. Gnomes look like common garden gnome statuettes. The layout reflects the journey: each page is divided methodically into three horizontal sequences with regular panels – there are no big double-page spreads.

We found ourselves smirking from beginning to end. There are so many comedic highlights we are not sure where to begin.

But, we have given away enough. Jonan is set up to have a sequel. We very much look forward to reading it.

Jonan is available on Amazon: