Review – Taarna: The Last Taarakian #1
Writer: Stephanie Phillips
Artist: Patrick Zircher
Colourist: Jessica Kholinne
Letterer: Marshall Dillon
Editor: Joseph Illidge
Publisher: Heavy Metal Magazine
Release Date: December 23, 2020
From the death of the last Taarakian and a collapsed universe, Taarna was born. Heavy Metal’s flagship character from the animated film returns in a new series of cosmic mystery and battles throughout the multiverse in her war against Kako, the embodiment of chaos. This is the story of a millennia-old battle between godlike beings, with all sentient life caught in their path. A new life for Taarna begins with writer Stephanie Phillips (Artemis and the Assassin), artist Patrick Zircher (Savage Avengers), with covers by Christian Ward (Invisible Kingdom).
Taarna will be forever known as the poster girl for the 1981 Heavy Metal movie, a stunning semi-clad warrior riding a giant bird across the heavens.
Phillips takes this masculine, wet dream from the 1980s and gives it a 21st-century refresh. Taarna is the living embodiment of a universe but still dresses like a 15-year-old boy’s magazine stash. Speaking last year to Comics Bookcase Phillips was asked about the conflict writing a male designed character and how she develops her beyond the original source material to create a feminist icon
I absolutely know what you’re talking about. When writing Taarna I actually tried to lean into this conflict more and start asking questions like, “why can’t she be just as powerful and feminist if completely nude?” Taarna is, after all, not a woman but a celestial being. Her body and sexuality never enter her mind – they are purely a vessel. Taarna can cut down an enemy whether she’s in full battle armour or naked. I think some of my discomfort with earlier portrayals of Taarna and wondering where I fall as a woman and a feminist also stemmed from my own discomfort with how society forces us to view our bodies and constantly meditate on our bodies for male approval. So, immediately, I wanted to ensure that no person or thing ever mediates Taarna’s body. When we see her, she is fully in control of herself and her space and I’m really excited about giving Taarna this power.Comic Bookcase, 2020
Taarna in this issue is resplendent saving a dying sun and the world that orbits it. The toll almost kills her and destroys her sword, but when the locals ask to pray to her and for her to solve issues like food and medicine she promptly flies off.
The book is written is such a simple but stunning format, yes there’s nudity but it’s not salacious it’s part of the story of reforming a new sword.
Zircher takes the 1980s groovy materials and refreshes them in this new version. Colours are bright, dizzying with galaxies and stars being born and dying as we read. It’s a little psychedelic but there are plenty of old hippies that love this style.
Like a phoenix, Taarna rises again with Phillips steady hand to guide her through her seedy origin to new heights of pride. This issue is a mini-opera in three short acts, that a more mature reader will enjoy. Four stars for writing and five for artwork.
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