Northlanders: The Cross And The Hammer (2009)

Northlanders: The Cross And The Hammer (2009)

Publisher: Vertigo
Creative Team: Brian Wood, Ryan Kelly

Set in Viking-era Ireland, Northlanders Book Two: The Cross And The Hammer, collects issues #11-16 of the DC/Vertigo comic book series written by Brian Wood (DMZ, Demo) and illustrated by Ryan Kelly (Lucifer, The New York Four).

It is 1014 in Viking-occupied Ireland. One lone man, only known as Magnus, refuses to bow to the will of the Viking overlords and is leaving a bloody trail of insurgency in his wake. Magnus has no ties, no weaknesses, nothing to lose…except his daughter Brigid. Magnus’ killing spree and defiance catches the attention of Lord Ragnar Ragnarsson, a forensic specialist and confidant of the King who becomes obsessed with finding Magnus and ending his uprising.

When it becomes apparent that the only way to draw Magnus out of hiding is to provoke him by senselessly murdering innocent Irish families, it sends the two foes into a circle of psychological warfare and intrigue.

I was really looking forward to this volume after having already read Northlanders: Sven The Returned, which was amazing…so maybe my hopes were a little too high.

First off, don’t get me wrong. I would rather read this volume than not read this volume. Northlanders is a great series, and Brian Wood is doing some great stuff. Even the premise of the arc in this volume is decent and had me intrigued, but it all ended up falling a little flat.

Ryan Kelly is a great artist but I was honestly, the entire time, comparing his style (without meaning to) to Davide Gianfelice’s, who did the art for the issues collected in the first volume. In some ways, Kelly’s artwork is better for this Irish story but in others it just doesn’t feel up to par. There was nothing wrong for it save for the flavor, and despite some great splash page work some of it seemed a bit cartoony.

On top of that, I was sort of brought out of the story some by the way Lord Ragnar Ragnarsson spoke/wrote in the way that you might see a character do on an episode of CSI. I kept thinking to myself “This is so modern sounding. WTF is going on here?

Another thing to watch out for is the twist ending. It seems to be all the rage nowadays to give a twist ending on everything, but I don’t think they had to do so, here. It wasn’t super-compelling as it was and then to sort of glaze over it all with a twist ending such as the one found within the pages of this TPB, it just dulled everything down even more.

Overall, I wouldn’t miss this entry into the series, but it could have been much better. I hear that Volume III is, indeed, much better…so I’ll have to check it out. So, give this a read if you follow along but I’m not so sure this will be a favored volume in the series.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Here’s A Sample Page From Northlanders, Vol. 2: The Cross And The Hammer
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Helheim Issue One (March 2013)

Helheim Issue One (March 2013) Publisher: Oni Press
Creative Team: Cullen Bunn, Joelle Jones

A small viking settlement is under attack by savage wild men and supernatural creatures. A small band of viking warriors is all that protects the village from gruesome death and destruction. During a raid, Rikard – one of their best warriors – is cut down but finds himself resurrected by the power of a witch. Now, he will stand against the dark with abilities far more powerful than any normal man.

The guy at the comic store recommended this to me and I like anything viking-related, so I was like “Sure, I’ll give this one a shot”. First off, the artwork was pretty decent. Joelle Jones did the awesome, very-stylistic illustrations. Nick Filardi used muted colors that suited the mood well. Lettering was by Ed Brisson, and I found no problems with it. It was only the first issue so it was really hard to tell whether or not I liked the writing by Cullen Bunn. The story seemed clear enough, but I think I will need to go through the entire arc to judge that.

Overall, for a first issue, it had me somewhat intrigued but the end was sort of anti-climactic. Rikard should have been showcased on the last page much better than he was, but he wasn’t. Ah, well. It was a fun viking romp, for sure, but so far it doesn’t seem to stand out especially well. We’ll see what the future holds for this series.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Here’s a sample page from Helheim #1 to check out

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