Manga in Minutes: Vinland Saga, Vol. 2

Welcome to another Manga in Minutes! First up, a small roundup of manga related news items.

And now onto this weeks Manga in Minutes review…

Vinland Saga, Vol. 2Created by Makoto YukimuraKodansha Comics, 432 ppRating: Older Teens (16+)

The elaborate revenge tale at the heart of Makoto Yukimura’s Vinland Saga seems to take a back seat in the second volume, as Thorfinn, Askeladd and the rest of their company find themselves on the run through enemy territory as they attempt to protect Viking royalty. Twists and turns abound as the series heads into some unexpected territory with Vinland Saga, Vol. 2!

Things take an interesting turn as much of this volume is dedicated to fleshing out of Askeladd, the object of Thorfinn’s vengeance. Yukimura does a great job at developing Askeladd and making him both an enigmatic and sympathetic character at the same time. Much is said in this volume about his background and past, but there’s always something of a cloud hanging over how much of it Askeladd buys into it himself. I came away wondering whether he’s simply exploiting things for his own immediate benefit, or if he does in fact have a much larger and long term goal than we’ve been led to believe all this time. He’s quickly becoming the most fascinating character in the series, threatening to overshadow its ostensible lead, Thorfinn. Speaking of Thorfinn, he takes something of a back seat, mostly being brought out to take part in combat or to act as Askeladd’s go to man when he needs a task accomplished. The other few glimpses we get of him, away from Askeladd and on his own, don’t really paint him as an admirable person. While we sympathize with him over the loss of his father and his need for revenge, watching him coldly shrug off the murder of people who help him, or the gang rape of an English woman dulls that sympathy a bit. It’s not the only thing that calls into question Thorfinn’s decision making. There’s an extended sequence that depicts the rest of his family coping with the loss of Thors, and one can’t help but wonder what they’d make of Thorfinn’s quest for revenge. This isn’t a case where he lost everything, his family is still alive and struggling to survive. He’s effectively abandoned them and there’s no indication in his own story line that he’s even thought about them at all. For their part they have no idea whether he’s alive or not. It’s a moment, in a volume full of similar moments, which adds some wonderful depth and complexity to the events of the series.

The artwork continues to be strong with Yukimura doing a fantastic job with the fight scenes and getting personality across via character design elements. One of the new figures is a mountain of a man by the name of Thorkell, and one look at the big goofy grin, the shock of hair sticking up from his head and the light in his eyes and you know exactly what kind of good natured brute he’s gonna be. One of the most interesting visual aspects of this volume comes from Askeladd. Throughout most of the first two volumes he’s shown with a rather light expression, open eyes and generally looks like he’s enjoying himself when it comes to the battle and strategy. Upon entering a new territory in this volume, his entire bearing changes. While he still strategizes and plots, he looks very different in doing so. He’s sullen and looks and carries himself like someone who’d much rather be somewhere else, like most people on their way into work on a Monday morning. It’s a fascinating turn for his character, and a lovely example of how good Yukimura is at expressing a character’s internal state through the artwork. Elsewhere Yukimura’s action scenes are incredibly entertaining. He doesn’t shy away from showing some of the gorier aspects of hand to hand combat, but never seems to revel in it or delight in forcing the reader to see truly gastly sights. Still, heads being cleaved, arterial spray, and even a few eye pops help reinforce the fact that these are savage, brutal people taking part in some rather unpleasant endeavors.

Vinland Saga, Vol. 2 is an absolute joy to read. There’s a lot going on, involving politics, revenge, destiny, and more and Yukimura manages to make it all go smoothly and flow in a highly enjoyable manner. Despite the fact that each installment of the series is around 400 pages, I can’t help but wish I had the next volume in my hand as soon as the cover closes.

Vinland Saga, Vol. 2 is available now from Kodansha Comics. Review copy provided by the publisher.

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