Written by Brian Wood and illustrated by Davide Gianfelice
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics
Brian Wood is a font of comics excellence, from his early indy books like Local and Demo through to his current onslaught of X-titles at Marvel. But in between all that he hung out at Vertigo and while there produced some of the best comics of the last decade. His series DMZ justifiably gets a lot of heat but for me it’s all about the Vikings.
Northlanders is a series of mostly unconnected stories set in the Dark Ages and featuring historically accurate settings and events. Each arc or story has its own artist, most of whom seem to be previously undiscovered European badasses. Much like the rotating crew on Prophet, this is an idea so simple, effective and awesome it is no wonder it isn’t more widespread in the industry.
Sven returns to his boyhood home in the Orkney Isles on hearing of his Fathers’ death. His uncle Gorm is chief and his inheritance has been squandered. Sven doesn’t take to kindly to these circumstance and aims to get back what is his.
Davide Gianfelice is an Italian who had his big break into American comics on this book. Dude is one hell of an artist. He uses beautiful open lines and somehow manages to keep the art clean yet grubby at the same time. His storytelling is excellent. I love how he keeps the action flowing through the panels. And his expressions on the characters are fantastic, he has them show fear, cunning, lust and anger all with ease.
The story is epic yet still grounded in family and dirt, the dirt of one small island. Wood deftly weaves the universal theme of returning home to find it forever changed throughout the book. He flashes back to fill in what Sven has been up to for the past. This includes living and working as a mercenary in Constantinople-or as the Norse call it Miklagard. I love those moments in this comic, when Wood drops knowledge and you are learning but reading violent Viking books at the same time.
And this is one action packed comic, (the quickest way to put a downer on a Viking book is to not have them fight). Gianfelice has a great touch in the battle scenes, he can draw great movement and impact and is unafraid of a little blood spatter. His expressions are again put to good use showing off the fear, anger and determination of battle.
Should I buy it? This is a good start to a great series, the art and concept are wicked good and if you enjoy this then are a stack of other great trades to enjoy (six currently with at least one more to finish collecting the series). If you like some history with your comics this is not too be missed.
Next week: Keeping it historical I cast an eye over the scientific madness of the Manhattan Projects by Hickman and Pitarra.