Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: David Gianfelice
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
Are you ready for a must-read comic? Well, the fine people at Vertigo have just the thing for you: the newest graphic epic by dramatic ubermensch Brian Wood. Ya, Sven, the rightful ruler of Grimness (located in Scotland), comes back to his home seeking revenge against his Uncle Gorm, who has ruthlessly captured his throne. Sound a tad familiar? Well, it is a historical drama circa 1000 AD, so itís bound to have some story elements youíve encountered before. But the dialogue sounds more modern than I would have expected, making it more accessible to English language readers and leading me to believe that Wood is setting up another of his great character-driven stories in this series. Thereís some action in this first issue to be sure, particularly in the first few pages, but the remainder is clearly setting up characters and dramatic situations for the first arc. Is it worth checking out? Without a doubt! Is it the great issue that Vertigo has built up over the last few months? Well... itís good, but I think Woodís reputation and the hype on this series will cause some readers to view this first issue harshly due to the fact that little actually happens other than character introductions. As for me, I think itís a great first issue with an ending thatís a little frustrating, comprised of four pages that donít really add to the overall twenty-three.
I wonít spoil the issue for all of you out there itching to buy Northlanders #1 on Wednesday, so Iíll briefly cover the main story. Sven, our hero and the namesake of this arc, returns home from the Mediterranean, looking to unseat his despotic Uncle Gorm and claim whatís rightfully his. However, before you comment on how cliched this sounds, Wood turns the idea of reclaiming a throne on its head. Sven doesnít want to come back to Orkney to rule. Rather, it seems as if he wants to take the money and run. You see, he doesnít really like the land he was born in, preferring more cosmopolitan places such as Constantinople. In lieu of a heroic quest to free his land of a tyrant, Wood presents a story of a self-absorbed man who is looking to collect some money so he can head back south to party like itís 999. Knowing Woodís previous record, this kind of conflicted main character will generate some quality dramatic situations, as well as open the door for other conflicted characters to analyze and deconstruct. Gorm will definitely come under Woodís close scrutiny, as will two mysterious women we see at the very end of Issue #1. Both appear strong and self-assured, so Iím curious as to who they are and how they fit into Svenís mission (though some symbolic visuals offer clues, such as that raven). However, to end the issue on this note was anti-climactic, since we havenít received enough information about this land and our main characters to really care who these mysterious women are. I know weíll learn next month, but still...
There is one element in this issue that we donít have to wait on, and thatís the outstanding artwork by Davide Gianfelice, an artist I was totally unfamiliar with before this issue. His jagged, rugged style implies a lot of kinetic movement and a unique look that will define this series for any future artists. The battle scene early in the issue looked amazing, with lots of gory swordplay that communicated effectively. In addition, his facial features and eyes are dead on, presenting the emotions of the characters. His flow from panel to panel is also pleasing to the eye and conducive to the smooth pace. All in all, this series will benefit greatly from having a talented artist in charge of the art duties, and Gianfelice is definitely that man.
Look, anyone who reads DMZ, Local, or any of Woodís other comic works wonít need convincing to pick up this title. So this plea is to convince all of those readers who still havenít picked up one of his books: Northlanders #1 is a great opening to a potentially fantastic series, mixing action, suspense, and realistic drama in the gritty setting of Viking-era Scotland. Donít miss it!
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