June 9th, 2011

Comics You Need to Read: Brian Wood’s ‘Northlanders’


Yesterday, June 8th 2011, Brian Wood announced on his personal blog that the rumors of his Nordic comic series Northlanders being canceled were true. Northlanders, which is published by Vertigo, is a collection of brilliantly crafted and thoroughly researched short stories based in the early years of the new millennium. A time when the world lived in fear of the Norsemen and religion was coupled with violence. If you are in search of a collection of characters and stories that will profoundly alter your comic experience, I strongly recommend that you pick up the first trade of Brian Wood’s Northlanders. Vertigo, which is owned by DC Comics, is an independent comic distributor that tends to dabble in the more adult styles of comic book writing, (I do not mean “adult” as in “pornographic”), but simply that they tend publish stories that would have less impact if they had to be censored for major release under the DC flagship.

The series is being granted the luxury of being able to reach issue #50 before the official cancellation. This is a blessing, as well as a disappointment. Granted, we will be able to receive the conclusion to the on-going nine-part series entitled, Icelandic Trilogy, but, as I have come to learn from reading a lot of Brian Wood, he will not tie up all of these loose ends. As a short story author, I have noticed that he has a knack for opening doors that were never intended to be closed. Some readers may find that concept frustrating, but I argue that it gives a greater sense of depth to his fleeting catalogue of characters. With Northlanders, the goal isn’t to weave an intricate linear story with a beginning, middle, and end. The point is to simply supply glimpses into the lives of a varied base of characters scattered across different times and regions of the world, with the connecting element being Vikings.

As a noob to the comic world, I am still learning the ins-and-outs of the industry. I have jumped from publisher to publisher while immersing myself in different characters and writers. With Vertigo, I have found my “comic home.” Once exploring the library of Vertigo titles, that was when I stumbled upon the scribblings of Brian Wood. He is a masterful wordsmith that delves into the deeper emotional side of his charcters. I find his writing insightful, as well as gritty. The best example of his brilliance as a comic scribe can be showcased in issue #17 of Northlanders entitled, “The Viking Art of Single Combat.” In this short story, he basically entwines his narrative around a single one-on-one battle between two weathered warriors. His script is more of a massive essay than a story. His thorough analysis of Viking combat, armor, and weaponry is well portrayed through his unique blend information and fiction.

NORTHLANDERS #17:The Viking Art of Single Combat

This series may be being brought to a premature end, but Brian Wood has his hands in other cookie jars. He has an abundance of past writings, as well as some newly announced projects. Northlanders is a series of well-crafted characters dissected over an entire period of warfare, fear, religion, tyranny, and violence. A must read for any fan of history or fiction. Brian Wood’s writing is accompanied by the intellectual art of several different comic artists such as; Davide Gianfelice, Dean Ormston, Ryan Kelly, and Danijel Zezelj (just to name a few.) Each artists brings their unique style to Wood’s short stories and creates a contextual tone that echoes in your mind long after the book is finished. If you are reader that tends to be drawn to muscly men in tights, big breasted amazonian women, or rebeling against the anti-mutant agenda, Northlanders is probably not your style of comic. But, if you are in the market for a series of short reads that have just as much depth and subtext as years of superhero continuity, yet are based in a realistic universe, then please pick-up Northlanders because I promise that you’ll will not regret your purchase.

(Brian Wood is a well-respected author in the comic world. He has penned for such characters as Marvel’s X-men and has also created his own critically acclaimed series; DMZ, Demo, and The Couriers, as well as writing several mini-series such as; DV8: Gods and Monsters, Channel Zero, and Local.)

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