After a long absence, Heavy Metal’s flagship character – the iconic Taarna – makes her return in Taarna: The Last Taarakian. This new series is packed full of cosmic mystery and battles throughout the multiverse as Taarna wages war against Kako, the embodiment of chaos. A classic story of a millenia-old battle between godlike beings, with all sentient life caught in their path.
The cult classic 1981 Heavy Metal animated anthology film was revolutionary in several ways. Not only was it an early foray into animation aimed at adult audiences whilst bringing rock music into a new medium, but it also introduced one of Heavy Metal’s most iconic characters. Despite being one of the only characters in the film not to have originated from a Heavy Metal comic, Taarna has become one heavily associated with the publisher ever since and has been featured in various forms of merchandise over the years. Whilst she had an undeniable impact, the character was a silent warrior who let her actions speak for her and much of her background was kept ambiguous. This comic aims to flesh out her character and expand on elements of the original film.
Stephanie Phillips (best known for her work at DC on Harley Quinn and Wonder Woman) does a terrific job of delving into Taarna’s background – with more details being provided on her home world and a deeper insight being given into her character. Whilst not being overly talkative, the fact that she talks this time around also allows readers to get a better understanding of her whilst making her more than a silent western protagonist – though she still prefers actions over words. She has an aloofness about her which is to be expected, but the introduction of her companion Shaan allows Phillips to show her softer side when she isn’t fighting alien monsters. Phillips also manages to stay faithful to the aesthetic and tone of the original film with a suitably epic trippy space opera setting.
The art side of things is carried by Patrick Zircher, Christian Rosado and Al Barrionuevo who all do a stellar job of bringing a new take on Taarna whilst paying tribute to what worked so well the first time. There are plenty of bright colours and crazy visuals that feel like classic Heavy Metal. But there’s also some more modern action aesthetic thrown in, with Zircher in particular using his considerable experience in superhero comics to bring the battle segments to another level.
This is a fun throwback to a classic time in both comics and animation. There is plenty here to appeal to new fans, readers of modern comics and old school Heavy Metal fans alike.
Taarna: The Last Taarakian is out now from Heavy Metal Entertainment (9781955537216, p/b, £20.99)
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