by Brian Wood (writer), Davide Gianfelice (art), Dave McCaig (colors), and Travis Lanham (letters)
The Story: A few naive young warriors hear the tale of Sven the Returned and decide to prove their worth by killing a legend.
What’s Good: As he often does in Northlanders, Wood again makes characters and readers mirror one another. The young warriors who go out to find Sven years after hearing his tale are like us, readers; seeking Sven out again by buying this issue, exactly one year after the conclusion of “Sven the Returned.”
Anyway, much as was the case in that first arc, there’s a lot of action here, all of it brutal. Once again, although he may be older, Sven is the battle-hardened badass, quick-witted, experienced, and both smarter and better trained than his adversaries. The bloodshed is enjoyable and the narration makes it all the moreso, sharing Sven’s thought process, blow by blow.
Perhaps the coolest thing in this issue though, is Wood’s writing on fiction itself, or rather the formation of legends. Sven’s final tactic this month is essentially to rewrite himself into “Sven the Immortal.” It truly is a case where fiction supercedes life, as through establishing his own legend and his own character. Factual or not, Sven transcends reality. This comic is essentially a battle between fiction and reality, where the former overshadows the latter and the writer wields ultimate power. Sven’s life serves to be nothing more than a series of roles, some real and some told.
This comic also again features an espousal of unity. Where the first arc centered around the idea of nationhood, this book feels much more intimate, focusing instead on family. Less grand perhaps, but also a lot tighter and more conducive to a one-shot.
Davide Gianfelice is just as good here as he was earlier on Northlanders. Delivering his patented blend of cartoony and gritty, this is Gianfelice at his best. His sprawling images of the Orkney landscape are also haunting and sublimely powerful, but this time, he also gets the chance to draw some more urban environments, which prove to be no less daunting or impressive.
What’s Not So Good: On the art front, I found some of Gianfelice’s action scenes later in the book a little confusing. I understand that he’s attempting to capture Sven’s “battle fury,” but he leaves just enough clarity to make me think that I perhaps I should know exactly what’s going on. Instead I just get shots of Sven hitting someone or other in some manner that isn’t comprehensible.
At times, I also felt that the book was just a little bit rushed as Wood attempted to cram everything within the 22 pages limit. In particular, I felt that having no space between the first attack and the boys’ later revenge wasn’t the best idea and would’ve perferred a bit more of a denouement.
Conclusion: A fun revisiting of an old character that can be enjoyed both as an accessible actioner and a more complex take on the nature of myth and legend.