It’s been a while since I’ve read a Brian Wood comic. There’s no real reason for that aside from the fact that I didn’t have any on hand until recently. I was pretty excited to check out the first volume of Northlanders because it’s a book I’ve heard good things about and it did not disappoint.
I’m not sure how the whole series goes, but this particular arc of the comic is about Sven, a Norseman who ran away from home as a boy and became a warrior in his own right. Now he’s gotten word that his people are being corrupted by their new leader, but more importantly, he’s owed some money. Upon returning, Sven finds that he’s dealing with a spiritually and emotionally crippled people. They also don’t want to go down without a fight, or at least their leaders don’t. There’s also the matter of another attacking people.
I haven’t read or watched a lot of stories set in this time period about these people, so it was a fun and interesting thing to witness made all the better by Davide Gianfelice’s artwork which is a little cartoony or stylized and sharp at the same time. It also looks like he draws on a paper that’s bumpy or porous or digitally altered to look that way. It adds an element that kind of subconsciously makes you think you’re reading something old even if the art doesn’t look old.
What I like best is that this is one full story that’s well told and well paced. I haven’t read any other volumes or issues so I’m not sure if they tell Sven’s adventures or move into other tales from the realm, but I can appreciate this as it’s own thing. Bonus points to everyone involved (especially Gianfelice) for keeping a consistent look throughout the whole thing. I’m getting pretty bummed out by six issue collections or storylines broken up by different artists. It does take me out of things. Anyway, I’d recommend giving this book a shot and I’ll keep my eyes peeled for future volumes.
A quick story before jumping into the review. I have a kind of long history with writer Mike Carey. One of the very first freelance writing gigs I ever had was interviewing him about Vampirella for Newsarama right after my Wizard internship. I didn’t realize at the time, but I was actually reading his Hellblazer comics at the time. Anyway, when I did wind up working at Wizard and occasionally doing some writing, I wound up on the X-Men beat a bit which meant I interviewed Carey several times about his work on that series. He’s a super nice guy that I’ve talked to a few times since leaving Wizard. I really enjoy his comics as well as the first book in his Felix Castor series The Devil You Know and have the second Vicious Circle sitting in my to-read pile once I’m done with the 2012 Ambitious Summer Reading List.
So, when I realized I had a copy of his Vertigo miniseries Faker — drawn by another favorite, Jock — I was curious to give it another read, the first one with all the issues on hand (I believe I read it when it came out at Wizard, but can’t quite remember). Anyway, the story is about a group of neredowell (or downright awful, depending on how you look at the world) college kids each getting by in school without really doing it the way you’re supposed to. One of the girls sleeps with professors, saves the “evidence” and then blackmails them to get good grades. They’re all just getting back to Minnesota University, throw a big party, get sick (all over a lab) and get reacquainted with their friend Nick. The problem is that no one but them knows that Nick exists.
Let’s slap the SPOILER label on this paragraph. It turns out that the lab they were partying in contained an experimental drug. They were all so messed up and emotional that when they all threw up, it all combined with the drug and actually created a new person, Nick, out of them. They wind up at a lab where the stuff is made and discover what the deal is and then on the run.
I got a very movie script feeling from this comic and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Because of the miniseries aspect and the way the story ends, I thought it was a very well contained complete story, though one that’s not always easy to read. These are mostly bad people who wind up doing some bad things to other dead people and have bad things done to them. It’s not an easy story to read because of that, but Carey does a great job of finding the nuggets of humanity that keep me interested while also throwing in all kinds of other elements that did the same. This is the kind of comic you could give to your film fan friend to show them that the kinds of stories they dig can also be found in the medium of comics.