Northlanders #30

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Ricardo Burchielli
32 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

Brian Wood and Ricardo Burchielli are known for working together on their series DMZ, also published by Vertigo. So when I heard that Burchielli had come on board to draw a story arc for Wood’s series Northlanders, I was intrigued. Ancient Viking settlements are about as far from a war-torn wasteland of Manhattan, but at the end of the day there’s no need to worry. This ends up being an entertaining first chapter in the latest Northlanders storyline.

In some Northlanders stories, it’s the Vikings who are the enemy, letting us see their destructive side. Here, we’re getting a nice flip of that situation, with the Vikings being slowly destroyed by the arrival of Christianity and the money used to convince them to change their ways. It’s an interesting contrast, seeing these warriors that we’ve been reading about for two and a half years now have an enemy that presents itself as a friend even as it whittles away at their core. That’s not to say that there isn’t a physical fight in the new Northlanders (there is), but it does beg the question of just how effective those fights can really be.

Erik is our new protagonist, and so far I’m not entirely sure what to make of him. We first meeting him being rebuked for incompetence, and there’s little in the way of excuses or explaining from Erik on the accident that nearly killed three Vikings. Erik’s a proud and tough guy, which is a good character trait for a protagonist, but it’s also hard to avoid the thought that he’s not necessarily the brightest of people. As Erik blasts his way through the second half of the book, one gets the impression that he hasn’t truly thought through his actions and the consequences that are going to follow. It’s part of what makes me interested in reading more, to see the fallout of Erik’s acts of violence and destruction that rage across the pages.

It’s fun to see Burchielli drawing something about as far from DMZ as possible, and so far it’s working out rather well. Some of Burchielli’s best work in this issue is over the small things, like Erik sitting with his face in shadow as the issue opens and he’s being chastised. Over the first four pages, we see him his face slowly start to surface from the shadow, letting us see first just his nose, then his forehead, and finally his eyes glinting through the darkness. It’s an effective slow reveal of Erik. I also like that Burchielli doesn’t overly glamorize Erik, for that matter. He’s got a big thick head like a potato, and a nose too big in comparison to his eyes. He’s an unattractive (if powerful looking) man, and Burchielli brings him to life excellently. It’s a mix of cartoonish and realistic throughout the issue, and hard to forget. The big details work well too, though; the image of the village with the mountains in the background is beautiful, and colorist Dave McCaig does his part too with a beautiful pattern of color on the surface of the water.

Northlanders is a series that over the past couple of years has turned into an eagerly anticipated book; the new characters and setting for each story is something to eagerly await, seeing just what Wood and company are cooking up for us. For those looking for action, "Metal" is promising a lot of death and destruction. And for those looking for a slightly more philosophical bent, well, that appears to be on deck too. This month, Northlanders is bringing the rock.

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