By: Paul Jenkins (writer), Lan Medina (artist), Chris Sotomayer (colorist), Charlie Beckerman & Jake Thomas (assistant editors)

The Story: A Welsh Prince steals the wife of a Viking. The Vikings sail over to settle accounts. The Welsh, getting kicked around, call for help, by offering beautiful damsels for their dragon to eat. The dragon accepts the payment and mows down the Vikings, who call for help of their own: the Norse gods.

What’s Good: You’ll recall in my review of Thor: Heaven and Earth #3, that I’d been blown away by Jenkins’ powerful writing. This issue is no different. Once again, it is a stand-alone issue that is entirely focused on what makes Thor different. In this case, Jenkins focuses on the fact that Thor is part of an ancient pantheon of gods, who once had worshippers who could call them for help, worshippers who had enemies in a pagan cosmology. The second thing that’s cool about Jenkins’ story is that there is a strong moral element. The challenge in lending a moral argument to a tale of the past is that very often, to meet the moral needs of modern readers, an anachronistic ethic is inserted into a past it doesn’t belong to, making the story feel inauthentic. Jenkins gets around this by making the original crime (wife-kidnapping) something that will offend the morals of both modern readers and vikings. Clever and effective. The third cool thing about Jenkins’ story is the frame of the narrative. This is a story being told. There is a listener and a teller, and instead of being just a literary device, Jenkins makes the frame part of the story by having one of them change. So, there’s character change in the story, and character change in the framing story. Quite well constructed and satisfying.

On the art, I was quite pleased. I noticed the camera angle technique right on the first page: starting above the train, then in the train on the teller and the listener, and the close-ups on each of them. Big to small. Distant to intimate. I also liked the detailing of the expressions and the work on making average characters part of a heroic story. And on heroism and action, it was competently done, and I felt it really came alive when the Aesir and the dragon came on the scene. That just goes to show that superheroes and monsters are still the natural fauna of comic books.

What’s Not So Good: Jenkins gets no complaints from me. On the art side, while I like Medina’s stuff, I’m not sure his fine lines and clean draftsmanship are perfect for a gritty tale of viking butchery and a dragon-god slapdown. It’s not a quality issue. I think it might be a mismatch issue. Something darker and scratchier and dirtier might have made for a stronger visual impact for this story.

Conclusion: Quite a good issue. I totally recommend picking it up.

Grade: B+

-DS Arsenault

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