Northlanders 1–3

I wish I could like this comic. I picked it up because I knew Dean Ormston worked on some of it, but sadly assumed that I’d like it, and thus ended up with way more than I could ever need. Volume 1 is a complete story itself, and I liked the protagonist reasonably well. It was an enjoyable if not particularly memorable story. Volumes 2 and 3 each contain multiple short stories, and they’re where the nihilism really starts to set it.

Part of it is the need to be gritty: grr, argh, violent men! Blood and guts! Torment and torture! And … I am not opposed to these things? But I feel like Wood fails to express anything else.

Then there’s sneaking suspicion I got that Brian Wood was not especially interested in historical accuracy. Even though it feels like that’s what the grittiness is meant to be. This became clearest in volume three, which features a story about three women who have survived the destruction of their village. And at one point, one of them says, ‘You talk of our future. What future is there without men? What good is wealth? What can we spend it on? What can we be allowed to own?’

So, what everything I learnt about Vikings as a kid was wrong? Women didn’t get to keep the property they brought with them to a marriage? They couldn’t own land?

I think Wood is actually making Vikings less interesting.

Also in the issue ‘The Viking Art of Single Combat’ there is this commentary on Loki as a god of war.

The young among us will happily chirp out ‘Thor!’ when asked about the gods of war, but a proper warrior, the sort who won’t do something as cowardly as bleed out in a shield wall when he’s supposed to have your back … that man will smile and talk of Loki.

Slippery, slippery Loki. The ideal war god, sure, but also the god of poetry, education, deceit and trickery, all rolled into one.

Which is … no. As a description of Odin, that would do well. With Loki’s name there, I don’t buy it.

The other problem with that issue was the sheer amount of narrative text, which detracted from the flow of the art. The issue is a single fight scene, which you’d assume goes by relatively quickly, but the narration slows it down so much that you can hardly make sense of the action. Maybe it’s deliberate, and he wants to slow the fight scene down and imbue it with meaning … but in slowing it down, it doesn’t parse as a fight scene any more.

The artists, at least, are all excellent. I am a big Ormston fan, of course, and his issues were the ones I enjoyed the most, but I also thought the other artists did some gorgeous work.

It’s just a shame about the writing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>