Helheim #1 (Oni Press)


4 / 5 – Recommended reading
Fantasy appears to be making a bit of comeback in the comics, and this offering by writer Cullen Bunn with art by Joëlle Jones and colors by Nick Filardi gives us Vikings and magic set in 580 A.D.  A small band of Northerners is on the run from some foul savages.  They cannot make it inside their gates in time and are forced to fight.  After a hard fought battle, the survivors enter their village to regroup.  Magic animates the previously fallen enemies and the battle is rejoined.  I will leave off the outcome of the battle…
Cullen Bunn is an established writer from the independent world (Sixth Gun) with some Marvel credits under his belt (Fearless Defenders) and drops us right into the action.  He is able to effectively convey needed exposition without interrupting the flow of the story.  He does not provide all the answers but gives us enough context to understand provided you are willing to go with him.  He gives us three to four distinct characters amidst the action and a few moments of humor.  He does provide some foreshadowing elements which adds to the grim mood.  These are definitely the grim sort of hard northern men, who fight for their place in a cold, cruel world against difficult physical challenges and unknowable dark wizardry.
Jones’s art provides the necessary mood and is striking.  This artwork finds her more scratchy and angled than I have noticed her in the past, so it is stylized to some degree if that is a concern for you.  I find it pleasing to the eye.  My only criticism of the art is some of the battle sequences could be clearer, particularly the final resolution of the second battle.  Such sequences with many characters (particularly ones that are more superficially similar than your average super hero team) are some of the most difficult to portray and the art team does alright but room to improve.
The first issue provides a complete story while giving us a change in the status quo by the end of the issue that leaves the storyline completely open.  This appears to be an ongoing series but as with any indy book low sales can quickly turn it into a limited series.  I am in and if Vikings dealing with dark magic are of interest to you, I would advise you check this book out.
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