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Graphic Novelty²

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October 2018

Northlanders: Books Six & Seven

Brian Wood’s Northlanders saga has drawn to a close. Seven books have given us intimate portraits of Viking individuals and families through out the years, in three geographic areas- Iceland, Europe and the Anglo-Saxon regions. I am sad that this series has come to an end, and will miss these emo, petulant and violent warriors!

Thor’s Daughter and Other Stories: Book Six 

The Siege of Paris– The longest of the three stories is set Paris in AD 885 and is based on an actual historical battle that was documented by Monk Abbo Cernuus, a character in this story. Told from the perspective of Danish soldier of fortune Mads, he and the other Viking soldiers prepare for a long siege.  Despite only a small army defending Paris, they manage to put off the Viking fleet. Mads is able to cut off their supplies and a battle ensues, but a political settlement is reached and the soldiers end up fighting in vain. Illustrated by Simon Gane, the rough and cartoonish looking drawings were not to my liking.

The Hunt– A hunter, whose wife and children have left him to live in the city due to unusually cold winters in the wilderness, tracks a deer through wintry Sweden in AD 1000. Defiantly bitter about it, he obsessively hunts the deer wanting to prove to himself that he is still a provider. The artwork by Matthew Woodson is decent with some nice landscapes.

Thor’s Daughter– Set on an island in the Outer Hebrides, islands off the coast of Scotland, in AD 990 we meet Birna Thorsdottir, the daughter of the man who owns the island. A tough teen, she is still caught unaware when her father is ambushed and killed by some of his guards. Kicked out of her home she seeks other guards that still remain loyal to her family. She ultimately gets revenge, but there is a huge gap in the story to explain how she persevered and claimed her birthright. The artwork by Marion Churchland was lacking and the short story was not strong enough to deserve the title of Book Six.

The Icelandic Trilogy: Book Seven

This last book details a family’s rise and fall through several generations in Iceland beginning in AD 871 and ending in AD 1260. Three artists are utilized- Paul Azaceta, Declan Shalvey and Danijel Zezelj- as we move through the different eras.

We begin with Norwegian immigrant Val Hauker, whom with his wife and son Ulf, settle on the empty shores of Iceland. Within a year other immigrants begin to move there too, but Val wishes to establish dominance as he was there first. After a violent run-in with the Belgarsson clan, Val wishes to teach Ulf a lesson on how to be strong against future attacks, but he goes too far and turns Ulf into a sociopath. Time passes and Ulf grows up and he consolidates power so his family can reap the riches of the region. He frees an Irish slave and takes her as his wife, and their bloodthirsty ways grow. However, I do not understand how Ulf becomes so powerful- why would other settlers align with his small family in the beginning? While this establishes the beginning of the Hauksson dynasty, I did not buy it.

Skipping ahead to AD 999 we meet the fifth generation of the Hauksson’s, brother and sister Brida and Mar. There is a Game of Thrones vibe here,  including a sexually charged relationship between the siblings. When Mar leaves to loot among the southern coast, the Belgarsson clan aligns with the growing group of Christians in the area, putting the Haukssons at risk. Brida needs backup so she finds the illegitimate son of her father,  hoping her half brother Ott can help strengthen her position. When a converted Mar returns, the twins fight over how Christianity is changing traditional Icelandic ways, but Mar argues that they must join with them if they want to stay dominant. At the height of their family’s power, this is a turning point for them, and the siblings need to adjust accordingly.

The final jump is to tenth generation heir Godar and his impetuous son Oskar in AD 1260. Godar is a steady man who is documenting his family’s linage and has the riches of his family in stable holdings, now that the family no longer has to go to war to retain their power. However, Oskar wishes for glory and makes a power play so he and his allies can fight soldiers from Norway who are encroaching on Iceland. But things don’t go as planned, and after several failed military maneuvers, Oskar loses the confidence of those he leads. The Hauksson family is now in decline, 400 years after settlement, but the family name lives on…

I am a huge fan of much of Brian Wood’s work, especially Briggs Land and Rebels, and this sometimes uneven series further cemented him as one of my favorite authors. Some stories were obviously stronger than others, but the problem I had was the inconsistent artwork. Illustrators like Leandro Fernandez, Becky Cloonan and Ryan Kelly were excellent, others were horrible. Dave McCraig, the colorist throughout the series, did the best with what he was given and kept to an earth tone palette which brought some consistency to the varying art styles. I loved every single work of cover art by Massimo Carnevale and wish he had illustrated some if not all of the stories. Wood shines with his historical fiction series, and you can tell he does his research, although he often will put in modern sensibilities into his work. His interpretation of Viking history is one you don’t want to miss!

-Nancy

Read my reviews on: Book One, Books Two + Three, Books Four + Five

Heart and Brain: Body Language

Heart: The third book in the Heart and Brain series is here!

Brain: Still as funny as ever!

Gut: I am irritable that Heart and Brain get most of the attention…

Eyes: Look at the colorful and cute illustrations by Nick Seluk!

Gallbladder: I maked these!

Gut: What do your stones have to do with this review?

Heart: Duh, he’s our most popular plushie on our website!

Brain: Every book seems to have some panels that perfectly describe you Nancy.

Heart: You worry way too much about what other people think of you!

Brain: Study page 123 and get some perspective, stat!

Heart: She’s laughing!

Brain: Our job is done!  Don’t forget to read Heart and Brain & Gut Instincts too!

-Nancy

Seluk, Nick. Heart and Brain: Body Language. 2017.

DC Showcase Presents: The Trial of the Flash

Sorry for the delay from my usual Monday post, but I’ve been sick! And since this is a pretty hefty book, I needed to take some bed rest for the extra time required to finish it ;D

Barry Allen is finally on the road back to happiness. He wakes up the morning of his wedding to Fiona Webb, at last feeling like he can put the past behind him for good. However, just as he’s getting into his tux, one of the Guardians of Oa appears to him. His arch nemesis, the Reverse Flash, has escaped from the galactic prison that Barry sealed him in. Rage takes over Barry – the last time they dueled, it ended in the murder of Barry’s first wife, Iris West. Reverse Flash is determined to make history repeat itself by killing Fiona as well. Warning the Guardians to stay out of his fight, Barry takes off to stop the Reverse Flash, leaving his family, friends, and his bride-to-be at the altar.

At the end of their struggle, the Reverse Flash is dead. Fiona, hurt and humiliated from being left at the altar, and shocked at how close she came to death, suffers a mental breakdown. To the general public, Barry Allen is missing, but to those who know him best, he has gone into hiding in plain sight as the Flash. Barry himself is reeling from the events of that fateful day. Half of Central City maintains that the Reverse Flash’s death was an accident, but the other half paints the Flash as a murderer. Barry is not sure himself whether he meant to kill his rival or not. His fate rests in the hands of twelve jurors. Is the Flash a murderer? Should he be held accountable for his actions, just like any other man? Or do his heroic feats earn him a “get out of jail free” card?

This run was originally published over several years in the mid 1980’s, and the writing reflects the best of both the Silver Age and the more modern storylines. There is great time spent on Barry’s inner struggle, and the struggle of the public at large, to reconcile the heroic ideal and the very human tendency to protect those we love at any cost. But, there are also wacky subplots and moments that only older comics can provide. The thing I love best about older comics like these is, they don’t take themselves too seriously, even though the subject matter may hardly be a laughing matter.

There is much more to the story than the bare bones I have laid above, with many subplots featuring Flash’s rogues gallery, his lawyer, and the Justice League, that all fit together magnificently in the end, in ways you wouldn’t expect. After finishing it, I am simply awestruck at the creative energy that went into a story several years in the making. This is easily up for my best 2018 reads list.

My only nitpick with this volume was, while the art was great, the DC Showcase volume it’s contained in only printed it in black and white. I was disappointed at first, but got used to it as I read. It did become hard to distinguish some characters from one another, especially the Rogues Gallery who, apart from Captain Cold (with his signature fluffy hood), seem to all be wearing the same thing. I’m sure their costumes are colored differently from one another, but it was all lost here.

I haven’t read much Flash, but this is obviously a definitive story for the character. Enough backstory is explained to where I would give it to a new Flash fan; there are also enough recognizable characters to a fan of the show who hasn’t yet started the comics. For those who may be daunted by the length – don’t be. Devouring this one in bite-sized chunks over several days made me forget I was sick for a little while 😉

– Kathleen

Bates, Cary, Carmine Infantino, et al. DC Showcase Presents: The Trial of the Flash. 2011.

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