Northlanders #41

When in a throw away news item on the MOMBcast, some time ago, we discussed that Vertigo were restructuring and wondered what it would mean for the DC imprint, none of us considered that the a title like the Viking epic Northlanders would be one of those to face the axe.

Of course sales are the significant driver here, with the book failing to hit the top 100 in floppy sales and making only a slightly more impressive showing in the Trade market, it was always a candidate to come under the microscope. Strange really given it’s a book that when discussing with others it always seems to be a title that there is an appetite for, but this apparent (and to be honest anecdotal) enthusiasm has failed to translate into the sales that this magnificent series deserved.

Issue 41 is the final of the one shot issues that punctuate the self contained arcs which have made up this series. This alone is enough to make it significant, but as is so often the case when having to distil a story into 22 pages it helps extract essence of what makes this series great, and in this book that is lain bare for all to see.

Brian Wood is a powerful story teller and one that isn’t afraid to allow his partner on the book (for Northlanders an ever changing roster of talented artists) to take a front and centre role in the story telling, with the art carrying as much (if not more) of the story telling duties as his words. It is a fine example of the comic book art and Thor’s Daughter is a prime example of this, with sparing dialogue and narration, Marian Churchland’s characters conveying emotion and motivation superbly.

The story regards Birna, the 14 year old daughter of a small island Chieftain, betrayed by his men and trading partners, and leaves her to quickly come of age and prove her worth as a daughter in a society where only male children are considered of value.

It’s subtle and affecting, powerful and thoughtful, and it’s a shame that its part of a title that’s coming to an end so soon. I can’t recommend this series highly enough and this book provides a perfect point to start picking it up as we enter the final arc(s?).

So many people I know are looking for something a little more thoughtful and deep than much of the offering in this medium, I can’t help feel a little sad that a book that achieved this with such aplomb is ending well before its time.