by Brian Wood (writer), Danijel Zezelj (art), Dave McCaig (colors), and Travis Lanham (letters)
The Story: With their village destroyed and their husbands butchered, three women, treasure in tow, run for their lives.
What’s Good: Brian Wood continues to show what can be done with a Viking comic. Make no mistake, this is a clearly feminist text and yet, perhaps thanks to its gory Viking historical base, Wood makes it one that is accessible to the everyman rather than off-putting. While it’s emotionally heavy stuff, it’s more action-packed and inviting than it is didactic. That said, the feminist base makes this issue feel more intellectually substantial, more engaging, and more complex than a comic filled with guys getting stabbed in the gut with pointy sticks.
What Wood gives us here is a story concerning three women fighting for independence in a world where such a thing is not only non-existent, but unthinkable. It’s essentially three women learning that masculinity is entirely a social construct, as they wage war not merely with a group of murderous vikings, but in so doing, with the nastiest of all patriarchies. Our three characters appropriate the masculine in a fight for freedom that is definitely stirring stuff.
It’s all the more hard-hitting due to Wood once again flexing his muscle when it comes to writing narrators. Here, he establishes a unique, highly personal and memorable character voice for the comic through the use of narrating textboxes. The textboxes expertly pull the reader in, causing you to really connect with the plight of our three protagonists.
Of course, it’s not just about those three characters. As is often the case with Northlanders, Wood always makes these personal trials seem like a reflection of something more, a battle that concerns an entire culture. Certainly, the bookending quotations help establish this feel.
As for the art, Zezelj’s work is attractive, stylized stuff. Dark as hell, abstract, and filled with fluid and creative layouts. It really helps move the plot along and convey the fact that this is NOT a good place for the women. In fact, Zezelj’s art makes the comic’s world feel not only threatening, but downright hostile. Full of shadows, malevolently leering faces, and nondescript, bordering on inhuman looking Vikings, it’s a place out of nightmare for our maidens.
What’s Not-So-Good: Unfortunately, Zezelj’s stylized work is also something of a double-edged sword in this otherwise fantastic comic. Due to how heavy the inks are and how bloody dark the colours are, it’s occasionally difficult to tell our three protagonists apart. Zezelj seems aware of this, giving each of them different hairstyles as something of a cheap aid, but it still is confusing at times. At one point, even Wood’s narration joins in on the confusion, leading me to momentarily struggle to remind myself who WAS narrating.
Conclusion: “Consider us Odin’s wolves, here to send you to your nailed God.” That’s just a sample of the cerebral badassery on offer here.