Comic: "Northlanders #21-22"
Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Brian Wood
Artist: Leandro Fernandez

Reviewer: Protoclown
Posted: 12/9/2009

Plot: A viking woman in a small village on the Volga loses her husband to the plague just as the villagers decide to exile the others who are infected to avoid the spread of the sickness, based on the counsel of a priest with a respect for science who shares his outrageous and strange notions of tiny, invisible creatures that carry the disease and pass it from person to person. She and her daughter try to survive the harsh winter, where cruel men in the settlement wish to take advantage of this newfound widow.

Review: Northlanders has been a fairly enjoyable read, although I've found myself annoyed at some of the historical anachronisms (particularly present in the first "Sven the Returned" arc--I seriously doubt that a viking warrior would refer to his mate as his "girlfriend"). Despite some of those moments that temporarily take me out of the story, "The Plague Widow" is shaping up to be one of the more interesting arcs so far. We're only two chapters into this eight-issue story, but I'm already deeply interested in what happens to this poor woman, Hilda, and her young daughter, Karin.

Boris, a foreign priest of Christianity who the vikings of the town tolerate, is very interesting with his unexpected characterization, and I look forward to seeing him developed further in these pages. His rivalry with one of the settlement's asshole soldier's, Gunborg, promises to play out in a fascinating (and probably very bloody) way.

Fernandez's art has been perfectly suited to this story as well. The brutality of the murder of the sick and exiled townsfolk was conveyed very effectively, and the design of the village, the interiors of the homes, the clothing and everything appear to be historically accurate as far as I can tell (though I'm certainly no expert). There are many outdoor scenes in this arc so far, and Fernandez skillfully utilizes blank space on the page to convey the vast whiteness of snow blanketing the land so well that I feel cold just sitting there and reading it in my amply toasty room.

If you haven't read Northlanders yet but enjoy vikings (or have liked the work of Brian Wood in the past), this arc would be a good jumping on point. The book shuffles around to different characters and locales from arc to arc rather than following the same characters, so you don't need to know anything that came prior to this to follow this arc. It's not Wood's best work, and certainly has its share of flaws, but despite the historical inconsistencies that may pop up from time to time, it's still a pretty enjoyable yarn.

Overall rating: WholeWholeWholeWhole
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

Reader Comments

Forum Virgin
Dec 9th, 2009, 03:49 PM
The Cross and the Hammer has been my favorite storyline so far in Northlanders. The idea of Vikings using forensic science and real detective work to find a mass murderer is brilliant and unheard of. The ending really knocks you on your ass too. Like a good thriller ending should.

Plague Widow is really up there and since we've still got 6 more chapters to go it may just beat it.
Dec 9th, 2009, 04:05 PM
The art looks great. I wish I could get my hands on this (wink at the possibility of a gift exchange...).
Dec 11th, 2009, 02:56 AM
Why have I not heard of this series before?