Northlanders #37 (DC/Vertigo): If you’re reading this review on this web-site, then you’re probably aware of the fact that the primary draw for me on Northlanders is the fact that it’s written by Brian Wood. And while there’s no doubt that this three issue arc, The Siege of Paris, is based on a compelling historical tidbit that’s the type of illuminating story most of us were never taught in school, a large part of the success of this particular issue is also the amazing art of Simon Gane. If you were to take the sheer level of miniscule detail and panel density of someone like Geoff Darrow and then match that with the gritty line weight of a couple of Wood collaborators like Vasilis Lolos or Becky Cloonan, you’d be somewhere near the aesthetic of what Gane is achieving. There’s an immersive sense to the scale that is perhaps best exemplified by the full title page. Back to Wood, once again there’s grandeur to be found in the text. There’s a purity to the writing that is blunt and direct, it’s not flowery, yet is still poetic. Like Hemingway’s short crisp declarative sentences, it contains no equivocation. There are small personal moments, such as Abbo the monk navigating the political climate, right alongside a study in tactics and the act of leadership during war that are on par with Warren Ellis’ Crecy. With 30,000 Vikings sacking Paris and being held at bay by 200 Frenchmen, The Siege of Paris contains the promise of being as epic as Frank Miller’s 300. Grade A.
Wasteland #30 (Oni Press): After a long wait, Antony Johnston, Christopher Mitten, and Remington Veteto attempt to get the story rolling again. Immediately my eye is drawn to Veteto’s artistic style and I start noticing some differences. Most of these style issues are neither positive or negative as compared to Mitten’s style, they’re merely different. In general, it seems that Veteto is laying down much more ink on the page. There’s more use of black swaths of negative space, and what seems like more affectation in the art, more shading, more cross-hatching, etc. The majority of the time the different art style services the story, but on isolated occasions it becomes a distraction. Those bouts of affectation, the use of dense shadow and cross-hatching, particularly on some of the facial characteristics, look a bit “muddy” and random, not tied to a particular light source or specific intent, and thus become a minor distraction. The backgrounds are occasionally a bit sparse as well, and it generally makes me think that Veteto was rushing the work in order to get the title back on track, which is what all of the fans want. It’s a tough conundrum to be in for the creative team. Moving along, the story itself is still gripping. The Big Wet Universe is presumably at some point at least 100 years into our post-apocalyptic future, yet we see the same endemic struggles that all societies contend with. There’s religious strife, talk of Civil War, and the universal desire to abolish all forms of slavery. If master scribe Johnston hadn’t been born in the UK, had he been born in the US, I think he’d have been born in New Hampshire. “Live Free or Die” kept ringing in my ears while reading this issue. There’s something timeless about Wasteland. The character machinations remain, Jakob gains knowledge of Abi’s quest, the dueling demands of Golden Voice and Marcus hum, right along with the reveal of the elaborate ruse involving Golden Voice. Johnston proves he’s still got a way with the language as well, lines like “the narrower our enemy’s focus, the easier we may out-flank him!” have a cunning wisdom to them that’s hard not to like. I’m also sensing that something big is about to be revealed regarding the fabled land of A-REE-YASS-I, so stay tuned. Grade B+.