12.08.10 Reviews (Part 1)

Northlanders #35 (DC/Vertigo): Beyond the beautifully designed cover, the first thing I noticed about this new two-issue arc of Brian Wood’s Viking saga was the thick ink on Becky Cloonan’s lines. It provides a palpable weight to the story that falls in line with the intended tone. It underscores the heavy burden and harsh environments of this reality. It’s there also in more isolated examples, like the systematic steps depicted of ice fishing, or the way a fresh fish sizzles on a home grill. Not resting on basic story mechanics, Cloonan delivers a couple glorious moments. The first is a panoramic double page spread that has three tiers of continuous action. It’s an interesting way to approach the drudgery and toil of daily life. The second is a single page where the snowflake effect envelops the entire page, beyond even the panel borders. Like a watchmaker, I want to take it apart and understand “how?” Are those white out smudges? Are they done with a finger? Was it the application of a sponge that achieved that cool affect? It’s things like that which differentiate Cloonan’s artistic ability beyond those other artists on those other books just robotically turning in capes and tights panels. It’s evident from that page that she gives a shit about what she’s doing, and that perhaps she and Wood bring out the best in each other as collaborators. The character focus is on Jon, a man who, without allegiances to commonwealth or family, seemingly has nothing left to live for, but may have found a cause hidden there under the ice. I’ve rambled on about the art, which is odd for me as a fan of Wood’s writing, but he doesn’t disappoint either. Jon is seen here performing an intuitive 1,000 year old forensic autopsy and conducting an internal homicide investigation as he rolls this mystery over and over in his brain. It’s a great example of Wood really stepping into the mind of a character and letting the invented person’s realistic actions guide the script. Not one to hide from a flourish in the dialogue, we also get plenty of poetic prose like “I’m too old to imagine young love marred with violence.” As Jon gets caught up in local politics, my mind settles again on what a brilliant storytelling platform Northlanders is. It allows Wood to dance around in time and place, hook up with strong collaborators, and continually bring quality stories with a diverse cast of characters and locales. Grade A.


At 7:14 AM, Blogger pratheek said...

i'm a BIG brian wood & becky cloonan fan (ever since i discovered DEMO) and i've been following your blog ever since i read that multi-part appreciation of Wood you'd done some time ago. I'd picked up Northlanders vol 1 when the trades came out, but didn't like it so much then... but then i read Vol 3 recently and LOVED it... But being in India, the only way to read any of these is by waiting patiently for the trades... so i guess I'll have to just wait :(

:) Pratheek

At 10:46 AM, Blogger Justin said...

Hi Pratheek,

That's great! I'm glad you gave it another chance, Becky's work is definitely worth the wait.

Thanks for reading,



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