Issue: Northlanders Vol. 1: Sven the Returned
Writer(s): Brian Wood
Artist(s): Davide Gianfelice
Cover(s): Massimo Carnevale
Colours: Dave McCraig
Letterer: Travis Lanham
This trade is 200 pages (four of those pages are variant covers) of straight-up Viking kick-assery. No intro by the author, no random writer dude telling you in a condescending manner how brilliant the book you have in your hands is. No, my friends. This beauty gets right to business, up to its ears in it, and stays there like Dr. Giggles all up in your neighbor’s chest cavity. That’s the long way of saying that this is for mature audiences because of the massive amounts of naked boobies and decapped heads. Sex and Violence, ahoy!
The story starts circa 980 CE and follows the story of Sven returning to his homeland (Orkney). His father has died and he intends to claim his birthright (i.e., his father’s wealth), and return with it back to Constantinople where he had spent a majority of his life. There’s a slight snag in this plan, as there often is: his uncle Gorm has claimed it all and is ruling the lands. Sven does what I love to see a Viking do, and that’s turn into a one-man wrecking crew, hacking his way through some serious revenge to reclaim his birthright. Along the way, he finds himself getting sucked back into the “backwater” life of the northmen he ran away from as a boy.
This trade is freaking awesome. I’m pretty certain it’s one of my favorite TPBs ever (that panel up there is definitely my favorite panel of art from a comic). The writing, art, everything about it meshes together into a big, bloody stump of fan-freaking-tastic comic book storytelling.
Here’s the main source of awesome in this trade: the dialogue is modern, but it doesn’t feel out of place for the time period or the setting and it actually feels historically true (no Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves syndrome here). You get to see Sven grow and change as the story progresses (bloodthirsty to tired of his heart being full of death), which is nice to see in a comic book about vikings. I mean, how easy is it to keep them in that frenzied “Kill ‘Em All” state? That’s the trick to give the story downtime, but not make it drag, like something you need to power through to get back to the killing parts.
And the art. Holy cow, the art! I don’t think I’ve enjoyed an artist this much in a comic in years. Just look at that panel to the left! Every page is a minefield of fantastic gore and landscapes and textures. Most importantly, every character looks different — something I suspect is hard to do when there’s so much facial hair going on it looks like a Teen Wolf convention. I also really appreciated that they didn’t get fancy with the panel layouts. You know what I’m talking about, where somewhere along the line someone thought it’d be a great idea to break out of the box and get crazy with the layout? Yeah, this one keeps it clean and simple, and that definitely helps speed your eyeballs along through the pages.
I love this trade. I’ve worn this trade out. Every time I go to my local comic store and don’t find Vol. 2 there (because it just came out in August — this trade came out last October), I want to sack the store, burn the building down, and run away laughing maniacally with my inflatable sword held high. Vikings rule.
Rating: 5 / 5 stars