Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Northlanders #47

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Declan Shalvey

Change is not an easy thing to accept for many people.  It is especially difficult when that change is coming on the tide of history, and the way things have been for a long time is not going to be possible as the way things will be.  That idea is at the core of Brian Wood's Icelandic Trilogy, the final arc in Northlanders, his Viking comic.

This issue finishes the second of the three arcs, as Brida Hauksson tries to hold on to her family's way of living in the face of the increasingly violent feud with the Belgarssons, and with the encroachment of Christianity on Iceland.  The real surprise comes to Brida when her brother Mar finally returns, only to announce that he has converted.

While Mar is the male of the family, Brida has more or less run the show to this point.  Mar sees conversion, and marriage to a Belgarsson, as the only way to keep from limiting his family's future.  Brida sees things differently, and her stubbornness reminds me of the resistance of Aboriginal peoples in the early days of European exploration in the Americas; she has no idea how large and pernicious Christianity will be.

I like how Wood has portrayed Iceland on the edge of modernity (the bit about the turn of the millennium provoking doomsayers reminded me that I really should read Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean's Signal to Noise again).  It's very easy to draw parallels between this type of story and modern times - Brida reminds me of, among other things, comics fans refusing to acknowledge the creep of digital platforms into the business - but at the end of the day, this is a remarkable story about a time and people we don't think of often enough.

Declan Shalvey has done some excellent work here - I love the exterior shot of the Hauksson's compound, with the Northern Lights dancing above.  I hope we'll see him continuing to work in more serious and realistic comics.

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