Graphic Novel Review: Northlanders Vol 3: Blood In The Snow

(Titan Books, �10.99)

Writer Brian Wood, various artists

WHEN you think of vikings, is your first impression that of Hagar the Horrible? Hairy men with horns on their helmets raping and pillaging in sudden raids from longboat warships? If you’re a comics fan perhaps you’ll be drawn to Marvel’s Shakespearean-speaking Thor the Thunder God and his Asgardian comrades in arms? Maybe it’s time to think again.

Northlanders has done to vikings what TV’s the Tudors did with the England of Henry VIII, Spartacus is trying to achieve with the Roman Empire, and Deadwood managed so well with the Wild West – taking a period of history and injecting it with a contemporary feel through dialogue, character interaction and parallels to modern society.

It also differs from many comic books by avoiding a central cast, instead focusing on different groups and individuals and reflecting their lives in the harsh world of the Dark Ages.

This latest volume includes the stories Lindisfarne, where a young Christian boy witnesses the Viking invasion of the infamous coastal village first hand; The Viking Art of Single Combat, which offers an in-depth commentary on Viking warfare and tactics through the simple narrative medium of a duel; and The Shield Maidens, which explores the role of women of the period as three Danish widows face down an invading Saxon army.

The final story plays against type, as Sven The Immortal revisits the character from the original Northlanders story arc, 20 years after we last encountered him…

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A remarkable piece of post-modern fiction in any medium, Northlanders stands head and shoulders above much of the usual comics output, and deserves a long and healthy run.