Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chronic Review: Viking # 1

Script: Ivan Brandon
Pencils: Nic Klein
Image Comics

I called my shot in Chronic Insomnia episode # 89, calling Viking the runaway hit of 2009. I called it without seeing a page, I'm that good. So after reading issue # 1, will the Manatee be backing off that prediction?

No way.

Listen, Viking is damn good. It's damn good, and it pops when you see it on the rack, and it feels comfortably sturdy when you hold it in your hand, and it reads fresh when you turn the pages. It costs $2.99 - are you kidding me? This is a godsend, and it will do very well by whatever means you care to measure it.

The first thing you notice when you look at it is its size. It's big. And it's about rough and tumble Nordic warriors, so it damn well should be. You may want to cry because it won't fit in your modern size mylar bag. Go fuck yourself.

Find a golden age bag and board, or better yet just throw it in the long box. The card stock cover is sturdy, it'll take it.

I've said many times that I am unfit to comment on the art inside any given comic. Even I know that this book looks different and looks gorgeous. It has a certain painted quality, and sometimes looks exceptionally life-like. It doesn't look like anything else I'm reading right now. I doubt it looks like anything else on the stands.

My priority is storytelling and characterization, and Ivan Brandon surely does not disapoint there. This is a tale with a goer of a plot: it centers mainly upon Finn and Egil. They are Viking raiders bent on making something of themselves in the crime game.

Those goals naturally lend themselves to violence, which Brandon and Klein depict with unflinching brutality. These are not nice people, and they are dealing almost entirely with not nice people.

Juxtaposed against these "social climbers" are king Bram and his daughter Annikki. Anni in particular seems like she'll be used as a counter-balance to the "get them before they get you" mentality that permeates Finn and Egil's world. The book needs that.

We might enjoy the occasional heartless bloodletting, but it's difficult (for healthy people) to continuously connect with that. We need someone humane to escape into, and Anni should provide that.

This book dodged several traps quite nicely. No flashbacks or fancy footwork with the storytelling. THANK YOU. Confusing the reader does not make your book smart. I wish more indie writers were taking notes on that.

Brandon's characters speak in a unique style and meter. Is it authentic? I don't know and frankly don't care. What I do know is that the words are clever, seem to fit the world perfectly, and make you want to read more of them. Amen.

I think the thing that most impressed me about Viking was the fact that it does not apologize for or glorify its violence. This is an often ugly world Brandon and Klein are exploring, and they do not shy from it. But there are consequences for that ugliness. Finn and Egil are already learning that lesson painfully by the end of issue # 1.

And that's another trap dodged - the Spinning Wheels Syndrome. Mr. McFarlane, are you out there? This is how you move an action story forward. It's called energy and a running pace.

Hey, Viking came into my mitts with a metric ton of hype and didn't dissapoint. It's the Buzz Book of 2009, it's coming at a refreshing price point and it deserves to be in your collection and pull list, period.

- Ryan

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