Friday, December 05, 2008

Northlanders: Sven the Returned

Northlanders: Sven the Returned

"Waiting for the trade" has paid off with Vertigo's Northlanders, tho I guess I should be glad the floppy survived long enough to warrant it. Individual issues are no doubt as good, but I'm more than happy with the collected format for this viking tale.

Vikings roam aplenty in Brian Wood's telling of protagonist Sven's homecoming to a community gone corrupt in his absence. It follows Sven about midway through the classic hero's journey as he wroks to reclaim his birthright with just enough time to lose it again. Bloodletting, treachery, passion, and redemption comb thru the desolate northern landscapes of this early and brutal civilization.

Ah, but there is a hook. Wood tells the story in historical time and context, but does so with all contemporary dialogue. No "Thous" or "Thrices" or heavy Odinspeak. Primarily it's cussing and lots of it. It pulls your attention as it starts but quickly seems the norm as Wood spins out a pseudo-translation of an ancient language into the words and curses prevalent in any modern argument or R-rated movie. It's not too excessive, nor is it pandering by incorporating unnecessary slang that would come across as blatantly anachronistic. Indeed you attach yourself to Sven quickly, which is a feat in itself considering what an unapologetic bastard he is. With this style Wood once again adds to his library of multiple genres that appeal to a wide audience.

The interior art is good stuff by Italian artist Davide Gianfelice. It has that great look and feel of European inkwork, a misture of tight rendering and loose detail over a clearly strong foundation. The book is noticeably colored in a "film grain" style by top notch colorist Dave McCaig. It's a little busy in places but finds a good balance as pages go on. The paper is of lower stock, but it holds ink well and was a good choice for the book with it's style of color. The pages soak up more ink to diffuse the stipple effect that may have been too glaring in glossier stock. Also (thankfully) showcased at chapter breaks are the fantastically graphic covers by Massimo Carnivale.

The series appears to be staying on its feet, tho I'll be waiting for the next collection wich will be an easy choice to purchase.

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