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Northlanders #1 Review

by  in Comic News Comment
Northlanders #1 Review

Brian Wood’s Viking comic book came out this week, and it was a good read, with nice artwork by artist Davide Gianfelice (with yeoman coloring work by Dave McCaig).

One thing that stood out for me a bit with the first issue was how the first issue did not really stand out, at least not the way we have grown used to expecting from Vertigo first issues (including Wood’s DMZ). Wood is taking a much slower paced, subdued first issue, and it is an interesting stylistic choice that I hope pays off. In that regard, it reminded me of Jason Aaron’s similarly different first issue of Scalped, a book that did not get really moving until the third or fourth issue. Northlanders has more going on in its first issue than Scalped, as Scalped did not really start moving until issue #3 or #4 (but when it did get going, it REALLY got going), but it still felt a bit more subdued that typical Vertigo fare. In fact, what it struck me as was that Wood was almost playing off our sense of dramatic history, in that we know stories LIKE this one, of the young man forced to come back to the home he thought he left behind – with no intention of sticking around – until fate intervenes. We know that story so well that Wood can almost write the story impressionist-style, trading on our sense of what we THINK will happen next, and play off our preconceived notions to cause the reader to want to see some more.

As I am sure many folks have mentioned already, the characters in the comic talk in varying dialects – from an English approximation of what actual Vikings talked like at the time, to modern vernacular. It did take me out of the story for a bit, but then I got used to it, so it’s not a big deal.

Gianfelice’s art was quite nice, especially the way he captures the settings (particularly a gripping first page that shows quite nicely how puny “civilization” was at this point in time – and the eerie nature of traveling in the days of triple-digit years. I think McCaig’s colors add a lot to the tone of the series, especially the way he highlights certain colors (primarily red) to really help the art pop at times.

Gianfelice is a solid storyteller, and he picks up on the level of violence Wood clearly wants to establish for this comic, but while Gianfelice’s fight scenes were filled to the brim with manic energy, I wish he would try some larger panels, as the sword fights, while energetic, were at times a bit TOO restrained by the panel layout, to the point of it almost becoming obscured.

The hero of this arc, Sven, has a hard personality to really get to know in one issue, but he is intriguing enough that it is worth seeing later issues to see where it all goes.

For the first issue…

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