Northlanders #41 (DC/Vertigo):
It's of little surprise to anyone familiar with her work that Marian Churchland's style looks like it has more of a kinship with fine art than it does sequential art. I realize I'm creating some faux distinction between supposedly "high brow" and "low brow" art with that statement, but you know what I mean. Her figure work and panel composition looks like what you'd find in a gallery setting, not in the latest issue of Teen Titans
or whatever. This is the last of the one-shot issues we'll see in Northlanders
, before Brian Wood wows us with the final 9 issue conglomeration of arcs in The Icelandic Trilogy. Churchland's palette is full of pastels thanks to Dave McCaig, who makes us believe that there is a watercolor effect at play. Ultimately, Wood's tale of Birna Thorsdottir is about the common pragmatism that a daughter has learned from her parents, along with her ultimate sense of isolation. She really can't rely on anyone except her own memories of who she is. It's a somber small tale with grand clear ideals. When you get to the parts about having her birthright usurped, it's impossible not to come full circle and think of Sven in the very first arc of Northlanders
. Well, just 9 more issues until... *woosh*... the title will be gone. It's the type of book that fits nicely into that category of "Best Book You're Not Buying." Grade A.
Avengers: Infinity Quest #1 (Marvel): This is one of those Marvel Must Have editions that collects issues 7 through 9 of the current Avengers book. At $4.99 for three issues worth of content, it's quite a bargain. It's Bendis and Romita, Jr. giving us a tale about The Hood attempting to acquire the Infinity Gems, assumably to reassemble the Infinity Gauntlet. He's already infiltrated Attilan and FF Tower to get two of them and has easily taken out the Red Hulk, so the stakes are pretty high. There are a few examples of some stilted dialogue and about 5-6 pages of some horribly slow decompression, but for the most part this was a really engaging investigation into the gems, starring everyone from Medusa and Lockjaw, to Madame Masque, and The Illuminati. One of the most enjoyable fan moments is having Steve Rogers and nearly all of the assembled Avengers teams track Iron Man to his Illuminati meeting and the confrontation that ensues. It furthers the rift between Tony and Steve and creates some interesting character moments in the process. Maybe it's just because I was hungry for something to read, but it made me feel like I should give the Avengers titles another look. I read Avengers, New Avengers, and Secret Avengers for three issues each when they all debuted, and then just... stopped. I plan on picking up Secret again when Warren Ellis jumps on as writer for issue 16's arc, but that's about it. The price point is probably the most significant incentive to participate here, but for good ol' fashioned Marvel U superheroics, you could do a lot worse. Grade A.