Monday, February 8, 2016

Review - Sagas of the Northmen (@BlackJackPress)


"Please send your spirit to these people who yearn for salvation."

The Vikings are one of the most famed cultures in all of history. They blended a feisty sense of combat with an almost unquenchable thirst for exploration, both of which got them in to and out of strange situations. Capitalizing their tales of valor is Sagas of the Northman by Blackjack Press. "Satan's Hordes" is written by Mark Wheaton and illustrated by Jok, "No King But the Law" is written by Sean Fahey and illustrated by Borch, "Because It Is There" is written by Fahey and illustrated by Marcelo Basile, "The Dimming Spirit" is written by Tom Pinchuk and illustrated by Ezequiel Rosingana, "Ascension" is written by Derk Fridolfs and Ken Jones and illustrated by Michael Kennedy, "Heart of Iron" is written by Susan Wallis and illustrated by Todor Hristov and "The Emperor's Wineskins" is written by Fahey and illustrated by Basile. All stories are lettered by Kel Nuttall.

Each of the stories in Sagas of the Northmen look at a different facet of the Viking mythology. Those topics range from religion to loyalty to exploration, all of which are defining characteristics of the fierce warriors. Where the book really excels is by successfully weaving all those different characteristics into a more overarching narrative. For instance, "Satan's Hordes" conveys a message how the Vikings essentially eschewed the protection of religion for the protection of the sword, while "No King But the Law" is more about the loyalty villagers felt toward their kin.

Fahey does a lot of the writing in the anthology, working on "No King But the Law, "Because It Is There" and "The Emperor's Wineskins," each of which tends to focus on the Viking virtues of persistence and determination to see something through. Wheaton's work on "Satan's Hordes" plays out in a fairly formulaic fashion before Wheaton essentially pulls the rug out from under the reader in a way. "The Dimming Spirit" is a pretty interesting take on the idea of Valhalla as Pinchuk essentially devolves a once proud warrior into nothing more than a sad, weak man. "Ascension" feels the most heartfelt, as Fridolfs adds in plenty of emotion shared between the characters, while "Heart of Iron" gives Wallis the chance to make the lead character as a savage survivor.

The artwork throughout the book is all in black and white and maintains a very consistent look and feel across tales. There's a vague approach taken in many of the stories that still manages to relay to the reader the hulking physiques of many of the Vikings. In fact, much of the artwork is very stylized in a way that capitalizes on grittiness to further bolster their appearance. Many of the renderings of characters bear something of a portrait appeal in that the characters are often set stoically against a backdrop of carnage surrounding them.

Sagas of the Northmen is a fantastic anthology that gives readers glimpses into the various aspects of made the Vikings one of the more renowned cultures in history. There's been plenty of science fiction and fantasy tales rooted in their beliefs and it's refreshing to get those beliefs from the source so to speak. All the writers do a wonderful job of making each story feel unique on its own, but that still functions as part of painting a larger picture of Viking culture. The artwork is varied enough to feel different in each story while still maintaining a look that breeds a cohesiveness throughout. Sagas of the Northmen is a pretty solid take on Viking culture that pays respect to it while also telling great stories about the people.

Sagas of the Northmen is available now.

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