Comic Review: Northlanders Volume 1

I’ve never met the man, but I get the impression writer Brian Wood likes vikings.  Between his Vertigo series Northlanders and the Black Road stuff he did for Image, it sure does look like he has an appreciation for those berzerkers from the North.

Well, I picked up an extra large trade of Northlanders, and I finally got around to it.  Here we are with Volume 1, subtitled The Anglo-Saxon Saga.

Yes, I do know Wood is a controversial figure these days, but I didn’t when I bought the trade once upon a time.

To be honest, aside from knowing the series had vikings, I had no idea what to expect of Northlanders.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn the book was actually an anthology.  Wood wrote all the stories with a variety of artists drawing them.  All these particular stories have in common, aside from the obvious viking presence, is the setting.  All the stories take place on the islands of Great Britain and Ireland.  They ranged in length from one to eight reprinted issues, and most of them were good stuff.

Of the stories included, we have a smattering of tales, each with a different protagonist.

  • “Lindisfarne” tells the story of a boy raised by an abusive Christian father who’d rather find his dead mother’s people.
  • “The Shieldmaidens” is about three women.  The are the lone survivors a Saxon massacre, defending themselves and one woman’s dead husband’s treasure horde from the Saxon killers.
  • “Sven the Returned,” the longest story in the batch, tells of a self-exiled viking returning home to claim his father’s treasure from a greedy uncle.
  • “Thor’s Daughter” is the shortest.  A young girl takes her place as the leader of a community after the sudden deaths of her parents.
  • “The Cross and the Hammer,” is a cat-and-mouse type of tale.  A viking investigator searches Occupied Ireland for a killer, an Irishman who wants the Northmen off his people’s island.

Most of these were quite good, particularly the longer ones involving Sven and “The Cross and the Hammer.”  The weakest is easily “Thor’s Daughter” because it’s basically just one issue.  As a result, there isn’t enough there to invest in the title character or anyone else.  In fact, it seems to end on a cliffhanger without any resolution.

Wikipedia actually tells me the character, along with Sven, reappears in the two other Northlanders volumes.  If I ever opt to go further, I will check those out.

But ultimately, this was a good book.  Like any anthology, it’s as strong as its best story and as weak as its worst.  I don’t know how historically accurate it was, but it was entertaining if nothing else.  8 out of 10 bird omens.

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