Saturday, 19 February 2011

Review - Northlanders Book One: Sven The Returned TPB

This book collects Northlanders issues 1 to 8 by writer Brian Wood and illustrator Davide Gianfelice. Northlanders is a Vertigo-published series about Vikings. The quote on the cover of this book, from Entertainment Weekly, says ‘Vikings finally done right!’, as if there have been dozens of bad Viking comics over the years, but with the possible exception of Thor, which probably doesn’t really count, I can’t think of many (if any) Viking comics at all. More importantly, I have never had any great desire to read a Viking comic, and therefore this series has never really appealed to me that much. However, I’ve heard lots of good things about it and when I saw a copy of this book in my local library last week, I thought I’d check it out.

And it was okay, I suppose. The artwork was very good – it was a bit like Eduardo ‘100 Bullets’ Risso’s art – and Dave McCaig’s vivid colours were really nice, too. The story was not really for me, though. It was about a Viking called Sven who returns (which you probably figured out after reading the book’s title) to his birthplace in the Orkney Islands to reclaim his birthright, after being sold into slavery by his uncle as a child, which leads to lots of violence and some sex. I liked the fact that the characters spoke and swore using modern language, and the fact that Sven didn’t believe in the gods like the other Vikings. I also suspect that a lot of historical research / knowledge went into this book and that Wood has a bigger picture in mind, but this first book was pretty much one, seemingly self-contained adventure, that was perfectly readable and reasonably enjoyable but it seemed a bit dragged out at eight issues and it didn’t leave me desperate to rush out and buy the next volume. I have reserved a copy of the next volume in my local library, though, and will probably do the same with subsequent volumes, if only because British artist Simon Gane has drawn some recent issues and I am keen to see his work on the series.

This volume has a cover price of £8.99, which seems pretty good for a book collecting eight modern comics, and especially so when you consider that £8.99 is the inflated Titan Books price. However, it has either gone up in price since it came out or else the price sticker on the back of the copy I borrowed was wrong, as the cheapest place for it online at the moment seems to be the Book Depository, who have it for £9.88.

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