Northlanders, Book Three: Blood in the Snow by Brian Wood and Davide Gianfelice

8/10 The short story format works effectively for Northlanders.

The third volume of Brian Wood’s Viking book collects together four tales from the world of the Northlanders. Where previous volumes have compiled complete story arcs the latest book consists of four shorter snapshots of life in this savage world. Brian Wood’s writing is of a high standard throughout but as always with collected short stories, some are more engaging than others.

Personal highlights are Lindisfarne and The Shield Maidens. In the first a young boy betrays his abusive and neglectful father in a cold act of revenge. The second focuses on three widowed Danish women and their struggle for survival against the invaders. Perhaps the appeal of these particular tales is that they allow us to perceive events through the eyes of the women and children of this patriarchal society.

The remaining two stories are from the more obvious perspective of the male warrior, though no less well written. The Viking Art of Single Combat provides a blow by blow account of a barbaric duel between the appointed heroes of rival clans, whilst Sven The Immortal reprises the tale of Sven The Returned from the first volume of Northlanders. Twenty years after the events of the first book, Sven’s own legend brings danger upon his family. Though this is a welcome return to a familiar character, the story is self contained enough to be enjoyed without any prior reading. Unfortunately, readers familiar with the character are likely to be left a little unfulfilled. The story ends on an ambiguous note and fails to adequately provide the closure the series’ original protagonist deserves.

The short story format works effectively for Northlanders. Brian Wood is a skilled character writer and these short snapshots of extraordinary lives are compelling. The art is of a high standard. Four artists contribute to the book and each style successfully mirrors the bleak tone of the writing. The colouring is as dark as the subject matter, highlighted only by the red blood of war which flows in great quantity.

Violence pervades the world of the Northlanders and it is accompanied by plenty of authentic Anglo-Saxon language. Amongst the book’s other mature themes, the role of religion in this society and the conflict between Pagan and Christian tradition recurs frequently. Northlanders isn’t a comic for younger readers, but for mature readers it provides an entertaining and thought provoking read.

Northlanders, Book Three: Blood in the Snow
Writer: Brian Wood
Artists:Dean Ormston, Vasilis Lolos, Danijel Zezelj and David Gianfelice
Publisher: Vertigo

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