Writer/Artist: Peter Bergting
Publisher: Image Comics
I first encountered Peter Bergting’s artwork in some sourcebook for (I think) the Shadowrun role playing game, and immediately took to his style, so I was very enthusiastic when he announced on his website that he’d be producing a comic for the American market. Now it’s finally here, and I’m not disappointed. Bergting introduces us to an interesting fantasy world that steers clear of the usual fantasy clichés, instead taking inspiration both from the mythology of his Scandinavian homeland as well as elements from the Far East; think Wagner’s Ring Cycle chucked into Jeff Goldblum’s teleporter with A Chinese Ghost Story, and you’re somewhere approaching the right track.
As the title suggests, this book has an ominous feel, with lots of mysterious mutterings about bad omens and dark times ahead, people keeping dangerous secrets from one another, the dead walking, and a suitably enigmatic hero, if a hero is what he is. Bergting also makes the whole thing oppressively dark, with the sun rising only at the issue’s end, and even then it does little to light the world, the sky taking on a burned, rather than bright, look. All in all, this is one of the most atmospheric comics I’ve read in a while, and it makes an especially nice change from the more sterile fantasy titles I’ve seen of late.
Bergting’s art bears a superficial similarity to that of Mike Mignola, which is certainly no bad thing in itself, but it’s also not merely an empty pastiche; he clearly understands how to tell a story visually, and it’s here where the differences lie, as Bergting’s storytelling generally shows a more filmic influence than Mignola. Bergting’s colouring also does much to distinguish him as more than just an imitator, as he goes for a rich yet muted style quite different from the bolder colours used on the likes of Hellboy, and it makes for a surprisingly big difference, as well as being very effective in its own right, going a long way to conveying the mood of the setting.
Where Bergting falls down, and it’s only very slightly, is in the scripting, which fails to strike a coherent tone, shifting from, um, portentous sounding dialogue that fits the genre, to more irreverent, modern, dialogue that really doesn’t. It’s almost as if the writer can’t construct a heated exchange between younger characters without presenting it like a couple of teenagers at the mall. Since the majority of this “modern” dialogue comes from the protagonist Milo, Bergting may have something particular in mind here (perhaps he’s from another world?), but even so, at this point it’s a bit jarring, and while it doesn’t undo the reader’s immersion in this carefully constructed fantasy world, it does rock the boat a bit.
This is a great looking title with a refreshingly different setting and lots of interesting stuff going on. Of late, I’ve been lamenting the dearth of good fantasy comics in the US market, but with The Portent things are looking up. If you have any interest in the genre at all, you could do worse than giving The Portent a look.
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