Cullen Bunn, Joelle Jones and Nick Filardi’s “Brides of Helheim” #1 is a fun introduction to the new series, but one that feels a bit inconsequential in the larger scheme of things and difficult to connect to emotionally.
Bunn’s story is a mostly done-in-one adventure that nicely introduces new readers to this world and then sets up another plot thread to entice readers into coming back. The primary story — one in which Sigrid and her friend Brand come looking for a whispered about draugr named Rikkard to help them kill a monster they call MÃ³rdvÃg who is killing their people, including Sigrid’s father — is pretty basic. It does a solid job of introducing the world and primary characters — Rikkard is an appropriately disinterested badass anti-hero, and Sigrid is clearly the plucky won’t-take-no-for-an-answer heroine we’re all expected to root for, but overall the story feels a bit thin. Interestingly, the meatiest bits are actually in the B-story, involving three witches — Mother, Maiden and Crone — cooking up mysteries in a witching kettle and setting up a solid tease for future issues.
“Brides of Helheim” is solid overall and there’s little empirically lacking, but it just doesn’t quite have a hook that makes it inconceivable to stop reading. It’s always a challenge to get readers to connect emotionally in a single issue, which is why the plot or overall concept often has to do the heavy lifting to bring readers back for both a second issue and added page time needed to emotionally invest. Unfortunately, this first issue doesn’t quite manage either. Additionally, there is some actual story confusion as to whether the MÃ³rdvÃg they seek is actually the giant bear they kill. Most signs point to the bear being MÃ³rdvÃg, but he’s talked up as a monster before and after he’s dead, Rikkard says, “Just a bear,” which suggests what they killed was just a bear and not MÃ³rdvÃg. I lean toward the bear being MÃ³rdvÃg, but the lack of clarity is frustrating.
Though I’m a big fan of Jones’ work generally, and what she does here is pretty, action-packed and easy to follow, I confess that I don’t feel her style is particularly suited to this book. The women, though well designed overall, feel a little bit too much like gorgeous hipsters in period dress instead of more authentic women from this time period. That said, there’s a ton of appeal to Jones’s work. Her style is crisp and clean, nicely consistent and extremely easy to read. She does very well with the big action set piece as the heroes fight the bear and she really cuts loose with Rikkard’s design in a fantastic way. Jones doesn’t shy away from some gruesome stuff (the bear at one point basically tears Rikkard’s head off), but it doesn’t feel sensationalistic or excessive. Jones pays wonderful attention to the clothing details and the book is honestly just straight-up pretty.
Nick Filardi’s colors are a fantastic compliment to Jones’ work, and he lights a scene beautifully. The palette is muted overall, appropriate both for the setting (mostly in the woods) and the time period clothing. At the same time he makes some unusual choices with a gorgeous green star-filled sky that feel inspired and really give the book that extra something that makes it memorable. The spotted blacks are also really well chosen and give the book excellent balance.
“Brides of Helheim” #1 is a nice start and one worth checking out, especially if you like Norse mythology, but I hope that the creative team can dig a bit deeper and kick it up a notch in the next issue.