What's Actually Good (In Comics)

What's Actually Good (In Comics)
What's Actually Good (In Comics) #8

Dominic Davies | 10 Apr 2008 21:00
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Welcome to "What's Actually Good," the column that looks at the best the comics industry has to offer. This week, I review Brian Wood's Northlanders and provide some analysis and discussion of Ed Brubaker's Daredevil run so far. This as well as my weekly picks to come and news. Check it out!

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Brian Wood's new Viking epic Northlanders is an ongoing series published by Vertigo and is now in its fourth issue. The first eight-part story tells of the return of long lost Viking heir Sven and his efforts to retake control of his homeland and, more importantly, his wealth after the death of his father. Northlanders plans to tell a different Viking's story each time around, with the eight-issue stories broken up intermittently by smaller two-issue ones. Eventually what we will have is a broad selection of tales taken from various periods of Viking history, the first set in 980 C.E.

The Viking-turned-Vanagarian Sven is the main protagonist of the story, but he is by no means a hero. He is willing to do anything to get what's his, including murder, and he's not there to help his destitute people. Despite this, one can only admire his courage and single-mindedness as he begins a guerrilla crusade against the usurper of his rule/wealth, Gorm.

The Dark Ages setting tempts you into putting on your historian cap when reading the book, but I assure you it's unnecessary. While it seems that Brian has done his homework before starting the series, the book largely maintains a very modern feel in its structure, pacing and dialog. It may be a point of contention for other reviewers, but I feel the lack of archaic dialog and modern feel make it that much more accessible and allow you to enjoy what is really outstanding within. That is, its rampant violence and vivid savagery in a dark period of human history.

The artwork, supplied by Davide Gianfelice, captures both the fast paced, bloody action as well as the vast wasteland that is the book's setting. Brian gives Davide plenty of opportunities to show us his talents, with the parade of violence only halted by the many full-page spreads of the harsh landscape. It's a useful technique that reminds us of where we are despite the mindlessness of the time.

What we get, then, is a violent romp through the dark ages articulated by Brian's modern style and Davide's strong pencils. There is something to be said about Northlanders and the how the period in time (that is, the beginning of a new millennium) affects those still clinging to the past. This seems to be one of the ongoing themes that Brian is weaving into the book, and I imagine it shall continue to be a point as the series progresses.

The next issue is on sale on April 25. Enjoy something a little different from Brian Wood and Vertigo and pick it up.

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One of my favorite writers for Marvel at the moment is Ed Brubaker. Ed's work mixes realistic characterizations with superhero stories to give us a unique look at our favourite heroes. Breaking down his many books to find the base appeal is difficult, but let's take a look at one of his key works and discuss his run on Daredevil so far and how it reflects on Brubaker as a writer.

Ed originally picked up Daredevil after Bendis' run on the series, wisely continuing the noir-ish style that we had seen before (heck, really, Brubaker was the only man for the job when you think about it) and immediately beginning to rock the boat and take Matt Murdock down a dangerous path.

This book seems to be a great example of Brubaker breaking a character down through tragedy and hardship. At this point in the series, due to a mix of villainous acts and his own characteristically uncompromising nature, Matt Murdock's life is falling to pieces. His wife is mentally unstable and he personally has become incredibly cold, violent and depressed even after his greatest triumph (dodging the public outing of his identity and imprisonment). In doing so, he is responsible for leaving his friends bewildered and picking up the pieces behind him.

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