Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Review: Northlanders Vol. 1: Sven the Returned

Northlanders Vol. 1: Sven the Returned, written by Brian Wood, art by Davide Gianfelice, 2008, Vertigo, 200 pages, $9.99

Maybe it should have been called:

Northlanders Vol. 1: Sven the Total Bad-Ass

Sven, the son of a Viking lord who has been living the sweet life abroad in Constantinople, returns to his homeland after learning that his Uncle Gorm (that cunning, cowardly bastard) has stolen his inheritance. Sven is a polished warrior, but he's never had that Viking edge, and he professes to not care about his culture or his people. Over the course of the eight chapters in this collection, Sven sets about recovering his money by cutting a swath through Gorm's henchmen. Along the way, Sven learns to appreciate the way of the Viking, becoming a more honorable and conscientious bloodthirsty killer.

Out of all the comics written by Brian Wood that I have read, this one might be my favorite. The story and setting are engrossing and the dialogue is excellent. Plus, although Sven is a typical Wood protagonist (starts out as a know-it-all brat, but grows and learns over the course of the story to become a true Viking), even when he is in his "immature" stage he's not incredibly annoying to read about. You want to root for the guy even though he wears his flaws on his sleeve.

There also are some solid, complex antagonists in this book. Gorm and his main man Hakkar certainly keep things interesting.

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Artist Gianfelice turns out some beautiful pages. It's obvious he's done his research -- the characters and places look spot on -- but thankfully the historical nature of the comic doesn't lead to the whole thing becoming too stilted or dry. You can feel that bitter winter cold, and the battle scenes pulse with life.

(click to enlarge)

When Sven grows that beard and shows his true Viking colors, it's totally on. You're ready to run into battle alongside him. But even there Wood throws in an unexpected twist that makes this comic bigger than your standard revenge tale.

Go and get it: it's eight comics for ten bucks. You can't beat it.

Here is issue one. And you can buy it here: Northlanders Vol. 1: Sven The Returned

Also, don't forget to enter my giveaway contest for a free copy of Emmanuel Guibert's Alan's War. Go here to enter.

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