Sunday, 20 March 2011

Review - Northlanders Vol.2: The Cross + The Hammer TPB

This book collects Northlanders issues 11 to 16 by writer Brian Wood and artist Ryan Kelly. The story is set in Viking-occupied Ireland in 1014 A.D., where one of the natives, a man called Magnus, is on a one-man mission to drive out the occupiers. Magnus is a brute of a man, who kills almost everyone he meets, ostensibly driven by a desire to protect his daughter, Brigid. Hot on his trail is Viking forensics expert Lord Ragnar Ragnarsson, whose unusual methods are mocked by others but tend to get results.

There are obvious parallels between the events in this story and the more recent political situation in Ireland. Magnus initially appears to be a passionate man whose desire to rid his country of its occupiers and protect his daughter has turned him into a monster, but is eventually revealed as a bad man who is just using his country’s occupation as an excuse to do bad things. There is a big twist in the final chapter, which veered towards being corny and obvious, but I think it just about worked.

I enjoyed this volume a lot more than the first one. It wasn’t brilliant and there were bits I didn’t quite understand – mainly battle scenes that didn’t obviously relate to the main story – but I was gripped from the very first chapter and read the whole book quite quickly. I like the way that the characters in this series talk and swear using modern terms – something that I think could annoy some other readers – and I particularly liked seeing a Viking using the sort of blood-splatter analysis techniques that you would normally only see in an episode of CSI. The art was good, too, although it was quite different to the art in the previous volume – more Darick Robertson than Eduardo Risso, this time.

This isn’t a series I’d want to collect and this is not a book I can ever see myself wanting to read again, but it was a perfectly enjoyable read while it lasted. It has a (Titan Books) cover price of £10.99 but both Amazon and the Book Depository have it for under £7.50 at the moment. I got the copy I read out of my local library, and all I paid was a 25p reservation fee.

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