This is a big comic in every way. It’s hard to imagine any other publisher than Image stamping this on the stands. I get the feeling that Viking, the self described, “9th century crime book” is going to be one of those series that people will be hungry for. Like Scalped, or Incognito, Viking is a series that seems to come from left of centre, yet is filled with a dominant sway that will topple the spandex adventures beside it. If you have any doubt about the entertainment value of a series by two virtually unknown creators that has no spandex inside it, such uncertainity will be pulverised to nothingness after turning the last page.
So, Viking is a big comic. Big in concept and big in production. What Image craftily kept to themselves was the size of this bad boy. It stands out from its funnybook brethren. Viking is slightly larger than the avergae monthly; not by much, but just enough to be noticeable. It’s a great surprise and I can foresee many readers like me, who ordered this book based on the preview art alone, having this thump down on the counter from their pull box, and being genuinely taken aback. Thank you Image – seeing this for the first time was a pleasant surprise. And more than that, thank you for the contents within the larger pages. It lives up to the time and effort that’s been put into it. Of course, better paper and a laregr size mean nothing if the story within is a waste. Thankfully, it’s not. Writer Ivan Brandon and artist Nic Klein have declared themselves to be true talents with this book.
Now, granted this story isn’t going to be welcomed into the bosom of every fanboy. It’s old-timey dialogue and instantly detestable protagonists will throw some people off, but it is a simple narrative and engaging to boot. Two criminal brothers, Finn and Egil are thieves, killing and selling the goods of their victims. They’re tough guys, but with a love for their family. Between their last raid and their next, they face retribution of a swift and terrible kind, which lays the ground for the next issue well. Interspersed is a nice sequence involving a rich king and his lovely, carefree daughter. She desires adventure, and I’m sure when her path crosses with the brothers, that’s surely what she’ll find.
This issue has just sold out, but Image are rushing a second printing, for release on May 6. Issue 2 is out on June 13. Once you cast your peepers on the art, you’ll understand why. Nic Klein’s work deserves the larger format, and as Ivan Brandon mentions in his afterword, Klein solidified what Viking was and brought it to a new place. Klein’s artwork is rustic, and dirty and filled with blood and grime. Yet it all looks very beautiful. At times it resembles the large-dot style of the Golden Age and other times he turns his attention to a particular panel and paints it splendidly. It’s not a mish-mash of techniques, and it all blends well, thanks to his restrained layouts and colour choices.
Some may find the conversations hard to follow at times, and despite its fairly straight forward narrative, you will need to concentrate when reading it. It’s such a pleasure to actually hold in your hands though, and even if the story isn’t for you, the artistic approach must be admired.
Preview pics of #2 below.