Northlanders by Brian Wood

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img_3259The Vikings have always been interesting to me especially their mythology. I am not sure how I came across this one as there are not many Viking comics out there, that I am aware of. Still it looked interesting to me and I wanted to see what this one was all about.

Brian Wood is a comic creator from Vermont. He has worked for all the big players in the industry and on some very popular comics including: DMZ, Demo, and of course Northlanders. Wood is also famous in the video game industry and has worked as a staff designer for Rockstar Games working on Grand Theft Auto, Max Payne, Smuggler’s Run and many more.  His newest comic Black Road was out in April of 2016 which is also a story about Vikings. Wood has quite an extensive bibliography, including The Massive, which is another book that is on my list to read. Needless to say this is certainly not that last book I will read of his.

This one starts out with a man named Sven who is the son of a Viking king. After attacking and overtaking a boat he is told that his father has been killed and his uncle has taken over the land and his inheritance. Sven cannot stand for this and soon returns home to take back what is his. He returns home and confronts his uncle, but underestimates his warriors. Sven now must regroup and figure out what he truly wants. What follows is a twisting tale of torment and bloody battles of a man img_3259trying to claim what is rightfully his and what his heart truly desires.

When I finished this one I was a little shocked by how it ended. I was under the impression that this series was going to use the same characters throughout the entire story, but upon finishing the first trade I realized that that is not the case. It seems that each trade deals with new characters and completely different storylines. This is a pretty neat concept, one that I don’t think I have seen done quite this way before at least in comic form.

The overall popularity of the series is unquestionable, but I find it surprising that it was img_3256that popular given the way it was written. I find it interesting that it was so popular given that each trade is almost completely different in terms of characters and as far as I can tell it seems that the stories do not overlap in any fashion. Obviously I have not read the entire series but seems like you could lose readers somewhere if they did not find the characters interesting or if the story took a strange turn, but I suppose you take that risk with any story no matter how it is written.

Again I don’t think I have read a comic series quite like this, it almost seems more in line with a book filled with short stories under a topic. I know you have seen what I am talking about like the science fiction time travel anthologies, or end of the world anthologies, or what have you. From what I have gathered all the stories deal with Vikings, that is pretty much it. So I really love the concept of the series and how it is written.

img_3254What I think is also quite interesting is how the story played out, I had no idea what to expect but the way the plot progressed I certainly turning page after page to see what was going to happen. I honestly think I was expecting something more cliché in terms of hordes of Vikings just sailing down the coast and raping and pillaging as that is what Vikings are known for. That description could not be further from what is going on in this story. I guess the old saying continues to be true, never judge a book by its cover. I have to admit that I was surprised by the complexity and deepness of the plot as well as the barbaric and cold, bloody justice that is delivered throughout. There is a great mixture of complex emotions accompanied with some brutal battle scenes, which is exactly what you want for a great read. I also liked to see the main character struggle with what he truly desired. It is funny as I think there is some real world application here. Throughout like we may think we want one thing, but as life goes on we realize that we may not want that thing, or maybe just enjoy the idea of that one thing. Life is full of twists and turns and this story in particular the characters certainly were well thought out and extremely deep. Have to give Wood some real props here!

I also enjoyed the ending as I certainly did not see everything play out like it did. I thought for sure it was going to end one way as that is the way Wood was making it seem like it would go, but then it quickly switched gears and took a turn that was unexpected but still interesting. The ending left me wanting more, I wanted to see what else was going on in these character’s lives, how everything worked out and what was happening. Wood does provided a little bit of closure in a few pages at the end of this trade in an Epilogue, but honestly I still wanted more as there were still so many questions that I had. It was somewhat depressing, but such is life sometimes and not everything can end happily.

img_3252I felt like Wood did a great job of bringing these characters to life. Even the bad guys you felt like they were bad, and I certainly wanted vengeance for Sven, but as the story progresses the reader gets to see everything a little more clearly and by the end so much has happened that there is a certain level of respect that rises between rivals. I found this interesting as the characters seemed to have come full circle and it showed what a true leader Sven was.

The artwork in the story is good, certainly not my favorite. I felt it was efficient but nothing over the top. It was somewhat rugged which helped set the tone and mood of the story and timeframe. I would not say there are a ton of characters in this story but the artist did a wonderful job of giving them all distinct facial features so the reader would not get them mixed up. This is usually a pet peeve of mine and this was one time where I had no trouble discerning who was who, so that is always a plus. The colors are img_3251somewhat flat, but I think this is due to the setting of the story and also the paper it is printed on. This book is on the old school paper that does not have the glossy finish, like the comics of the mid 90’s. I think if it was printed on the newer paper it may look a little sharper, but I think given the setting the duller colors seem to fit the story better. Page layouts were normal nothing really to talk about here. Overall solid artwork, but nothing special.

I was quite surprised by this one. As I mentioned above I was not sure what to expect and most of the time having no expectations is better than having some, but I was extremely surprised by the depth and emotion of the story. I was not expecting that in any way. The story has some deeply emotional scenes that I still think about and how the characters react to them makes for a great read. This img_3250seems like it could be a very interesting series and the way it is written is also something I have not seen before. I recommend checking this one out, you will certainly not be disappointed.

Manik

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