“Northlanders Volume 1: Sven the Returned” by Brian Wood and Davide Gianfelice (Vertigo, 2008)

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In a new graphic novel series from Brian Wood, author of DMZ and Demo, and illustrated by Davide Gianfelice, comes Northlanders Volume 1: Sven the Returned. Northlanders offers up a fresh historical graphic novel, like that of Eric Shanower’s Age of Bronze and Warren Ellis’ Crecy, as Wood brings the world of the Vikings to light with the detailed and gory art style of Gianfelice.

Sven is a disowned Viking.  After his father is killed when he is a boy, and, as the heir apparent, he dishonors his mother by not protecting and defending her from his uncle Gorm who rapes her and takes control of the people and holdings, Sven flees from the north lands.  He is captured and made a slave for most of his childhood until he is set free and refers to himself as a Varangian: a Norseman who has left his home.  He spends his years in the great city of Constantinople as a member of the Royal Guard, until he is ready and returns to the north for revenge.  The year is 980.

His old home is in the Orkney Islands, and he finds it not much changed from when he left, but having lived in Constantinople for so long, he must learn to live in the harsh climes once again.  He also must gain the respect of his people.  Sven begins fighting back against Gorm, employing all the skill and knowledge he has gained.  The question is when he finally defeats Gorm and restores his family’s honor, will he still want to be king and rule?

Northlanders is a fresh historical graphic novel that is a little shaky at first with this new storyline, but there is good character development and potential for the future volumes.  With a fresh art style that captures the tone of the period, as well as being accurately detailed through the art, Northlanders is a series I look forward to reading in volume 2: The Cross + The Hammer.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on November 11th, 2008 ©Alex C. Telander.

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