One of the best things about the “Northlanders” set-up is that from month to month, you never know just what you’re going to get. So one issue you get Vikings attacking Paris, and the next? A solitary hunter pursuing a deer across Sweden.
Brian Wood’s story, “The Hunt,” reminds me of writers like Jack London, delving into the mind of its protagonist as he follows his prey, slowly running out of arrows even as he refuses to quit. It’s an extremely simple story, but it’s effective by how well we get to know its main character. Rather than plot-focused, it’s entirely about the mindset of the hunter who eschews city life and prefers to stay in the wild.
Wood helps us understand here why the main character keeps getting further and further away from home as he follows the deer, and why this deer is so important to him. It’s a mindset that will be alien to most of its readers, but Wood makes it understandable. By the time the story is over, you may not know much about the character’s life itself, but you understand him.
Matthew Woodson’s art is new to me, and I am liking what I see. His art is smooth and rounded, and the snowy forests of Sweden are simultaneously inviting and daunting under his pencil. Where Woodson really knocks it out of the park, though, is the way he draws eyes. Looking at the number of times that Woodson focuses on the eye is entrancing, and how it’s not for the same effect each time. Fear, desperation, determination, wistfulness; each glimpse into his eyes brings out a different emotion, depending on what’s needed for the story. Add in Dave McCaig’s subtle colors (I love the red pinched cheeks and nose, or the blue tinges on the snow) and we’ve got a beautiful comic.
I wouldn’t want a story like “The Hunt” in “Northlanders” every month, but that’s the beauty of it being an anthology comic. After watching Paris get sacked, it’s nice to get a one-month change of pace. As always, “Northlanders” delivers the goods.