I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got one new comic, a small softcover book, plus a hard cover collection:

  • Sparta U.S.A. – 6
  • “Moving Pictures”
  • “The Engineer – Konstruct”
  • And now for a review of something I’ve read recently.

  • “Northlanders Volume 3 – Blood in the Snow” by Brian Wood And various artists
  • “With this collection of short stories, writer Brian Wood continues his redefinition of the Norse sagas, seamlessly blending historical detail with a modern sensibility”. That’s the blurb on the back of this volume of Northlanders. Instead of one long story we get three shorter ones. That’s neither good nor bad in my eyes. The only problem I have with this book is the, “With a modern sensibility” part.

    The first story is one of an unhappy boy living near Lindisfarne, England in 793 AD. He actually sees the Viking invasion as a good thing because he doesn’t like his newly Christianized, rather harsh, father and can’t live up to the example of his older brother. He longs to be a warrior fighting for the strong old gods rather than the new one who demands submission and servitude and promises reward only upon death. So when the Vikings come raiding he wants to join them.

    This story was pretty harsh. To me there was nothing particularly appealing about either of the choices the boy had. I could see his attraction to the Vikings since they were the strong ones and it looked like they took their fate into their own hands but that was a tough course for a small English boy to take. Despite its harshness I though this was the best story of the bunch.

    The second story was an issue long fight scene between two champions. A couple of neighboring war chiefs were settling a feud by having single combat between each of their champions. Neither war chief had enough men to muster an army so single combat it was.

    I like the writing and art for this story but ultimately found the fight hackneyed and uninspiring. It’s didn’t ring true for me. It seemed like a stage fight where the fighters fell for dumb tricks that would never happen in a real fight. I just plain didn’t buy into the storytelling of the fight. Wood’s narration, going on through the fight, and expanded on the world at large was good. The artwork showing us the fight was good too so it’s not like it was a bad comic. I just didn’t believe it.

    The third story was two issues and is where I had the problem with the “Modern sensibility” part. It’s the story of three Viking women, settlers in England, who survive an attack by local Saxons and then hold up in an old Roman fort and decide to fight the fifty Saxon men who want them dead. Once again I wasn’t buying it.

    “Modern sensibility” means that instead of being passive victims the women become action heroes. That’s the problem I have. Due to women’s second class status in historical stories such as these writers who want to modernize them always turn the women into action heroes who can stand toe to toe in a physical confrontation with men. Unless there are super powers involved I’m not buying it.

    I’m sure there were women in the past who, despite their second class status, found imaginative solutions to their difficult problems. But these women don’t get stories written about them. It’s either passive victims or they fight off fifty men in a completely unrealistic manner. I find this a failing of the imagination of writers.

    Other than me not buying into the story it was well done. The writing and art were both fine and the story well told. I just couldn’t believe that three untrained women could fight off fifty male warriors. Sorry.

    The fourth story was a take on a western gunfighter myth. “Sven the Immortal” is a famous warrior who lives banished and isolated on an island with his wife and children. Seven young men decide to try and kill him to make their reputations. You know the rest. Once again a well done story but not spectacular.

    Overall this volume was a solid effort. It’s a well crafted comic despite what I perceive as its flaws. I’ll be around for the next volume.