Heathen is a three-volume series that gives readers a fresh take on Viking mythology with a welcome LGBTQ+ storyline. Aydis is a young Viking woman warrior who has recently been outcast by her tribe for she was caught kissing another woman and did not renounce her feelings like the other young woman did to save face. Aydis wishes to take her destiny into her own hands, so she seeks Brynhild, a former Valkyrie banished by Godking Odin for disobeying him and gets mixed up in some additional adventures. I read the first volume a year ago, and have been looking forward to how the author and illustrator Natasha Alerici would wrap the trilogy up.
This middle volume of the planned trilogy has young Viking Aydis trying to reach Heimdall, which is the magical entrance to the land of the Gods. She enlists a ship of female sailors to take her northward into unfamiliar waters along with a trio of man-eating mermaids. On parallel journeys, recently released Valkrie Brynhild is struggling with the price of her freedom and Freyja, the decedent Goddess of Love, is feuding with the God-King Odin. All three women are set to converge soon, and hopefully throw over the patriarchy together.
Alterici’s art has improved since volume one. Inked in black and white with a few sepia and blush overwashes and black gutters, it captured the iciness of the Northlands. Backgrounds remain minimal, but she captures a diverse cast well. I also liked how she introduced some complexity into Aydis’s story, in which she was very naive about a choice she made and when it backfired and someone else was hurt, she was called out on it.
Aydis is now at the entrance to Heimdall, when she is attacked by two giant trolls. During her captivity with them, they reveal that their mother has been kidnapped by Odin and she agrees to go in and try to help her escape. While this is happening Brynhild happens upon the former village of Aydis and is there to help when an invading army attacks. This standoff also throws in Freyja, the female ship crew from the last book, Aydis’s father in addition to her former love. So long as we are including everyone, we get the mythical wolves Skull and Hati, plus Saga the horse in the narrative too. There is a final wrap-up up with Aydis, the goddesses and Odin in a feel-good bow. But the troll mother thread was completely forgotten with no resolution!
In real life, Alterici had some health issues with hand pain, so she employed Ashley Woods as the artist for this last volume, and it took some getting used to, although she tried to emulate the established style. She also utilized another letterer, for it had been Rachel Deering for the first two volumes but used Morgan Martinez in this last book. The muted color palette continued along with minimal to no background in the panels.
I have to admit, this last volume really let me down. In addition to the artist changing, the plot fell apart. I’m sure Alterici was fond of many of her background characters, but the way they were all shoved in for no purpose was off-putting. And the huge gap of not wrapping up the troll storyline showed a lack of editing and judgment. But as a whole, I still think very fondly of this series, for I liked the character of Aydis and the idea of fighting back against the patriarchy. I hope to read more from Alterici in the future as she offered a fresh voice and a needed diversity.