Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Book of the Week 7/30/08 Northlanders Sven the Returned #8

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Davide Gianfelice
Letters by Travis Lanham

After reading the conclusion to Brian Wood's epic viking tale this week I thought it was very different from what I've read from him before (mainly stories within DEMO). The main character of Sven was introduced in this story as a gigantic asshole who was mainly out for what he felt was owed to him. Svens story follows many standard beats of the hero's journey. Through Svens trials he has become a more rounded and mature character. What I enjoyed though was how Sven always felt like an outsider amongst his own people. While his travels early in life left him separated since he'd seen more civilized portions of the world, he'd rejected the world he was born into. Now with the finale of the story, we see that Sven has matured to the point of caring for his people however still rejecting their ways. In the end, his decisions reflect this in both his born duties and his heart.

While good, the series had some odd writing beats. Wood characterized the inhabitants of this old world as speaking in a modern way, i.e. cursing like sailors. While I'm not sure how historically accurate this is, it was just jarring every time it happened. However, this story wasn't about historical accuracy, it was about characterization. Wood finishes Svens story by jumping into the future and showing how he spends his remaining years after his trials at home. In the end, Svens growth and maturity were more in line with the character driven stories that I had expected from Wood making me reassess my earlier assumption. Balanced with equal bits comedy, tragedy, and action, this book always made for a compelling read.

Gianfelices art in this book was great. The northern islands not only looked desolate but felt cold and forbidding. There was a grime on these pages that wouldn't wash off. Alternately, other locales like Constantinople were shimmering and bright. Battles were fierce and crowded and the sweeping vistas and cliffs gave a grand scale to the setting. Gianfelice has definitely made a fan out of me.

In the end, Northlanders was an entertaining series which offered much in the way of action, romance, and tragedy. In the vein of the old myths and Arthurian legends, Northlanders adds a contemporary spin that makes for a compelling story.