By Phil Hester (Writer), Michael Avon Oeming (Artist), and Val Staples (Colorist)
The Story: A one-and-done comic set sometime long ago in The Darkness universe, Lodbrok’s Hand is a cautionary story about a man’s (good-intentioned) strive for power and the cost that it carries. Lodbrok, his sister, and some others are the few that remain of a village following a brutal raid lead by the tyrant Grimur. The group goes off in search of the legendary Forbidden Horn in the hopes of summoning The Black Captain and his twisted crew in order to even the odds against the might of Grimur. As with similar stories, there is a price to be paid for the powers called forth by the Forbidden Horn, regardless of the success or failure they bring.
What’s Good: I consider this one-shot to be such a success because the creative team manages to make a very familiar story feel like something fresh and almost brand new. First off, Phil Hester’s script effectively captures the feeling of a tale being spoken aloud by a master storyteller; something that is crucial to the book considering how the story told in Lodbrok’s Hand is framed. Secondly, the artwork by Michael Avon Oeming (colored by Val Staples) does a great job of capturing the dark, foreboding nature of Lodbrok’s quest. From the blood-drenched action scenes to the bizarre, supernatural nature of The Black Captain and his ship, Lodbrok’s Hand is a visual treat.
One other thing worth mentioning is how the story can really be enjoyed by anyone. While Darkness fans will no doubt get a kick out of seeing the captain’s crew and a creature from Top Cow’s Broken Trinity event, those unfamiliar with that stuff will still find a lot to like. Simply put, Lodbrok’s Hand is a great example of a one-shot done right.
What’s Not So Good: To be honest, the most negative thing I can say about the stand-alone saga is that it is fairly predictable from beginning to end. While the script and visuals do wonders for freshening up a story told many times before, it is still a story told many times before. That said, it is a story told many times before given impressive visuals and an epic script. While a twist or two would have been nice, I can’t complain too much considering how technically sound the whole thing is.
Conclusion: Definitely give The Darkness: Lodbrok’s Hand a shot if you are a fan of the series or just good stories in general. It doesn’t exactly break any new ground, but then again it doesn’t need to. Easily one of the better one-and-done comics I have read this year.