“...As the world splintered around him, the captain wondered why the fuck the Christians had come so far north”
Norway. 10th Century AD. King Olaf I made it his priority to convert the country to Christianity by any means necessary. The steady march of Roman Christianity clashed violently with the old Norse ways. They call it the conversion, where “churches bubble up like blisters, and priests spread like lice.” Under Olaf I, “pagans” were tortured, their temples burned and destroyed.
This was a cold, brutal reality for most of Scandinavia.
And it’s brilliantly, beautifully displayed in the first few pages of “Black Road #1,” from Brian Wood and Garry Brown (The Massive) with colors from Dave McCaig for Image Comics.
The protagonist is a gruff, dour Magnus The Black. Caught in the midst of a struggle between the Norse people and the Christians, Magnus is a man with no allegiance. His inner monologue as dark and pessimistic as the sharp lines and deep blacks of the ink with which he’s painted.
Here is a man who just wants to be left the hell alone.
Against his better judgement, Magnus takes a job as a guide for a church official along the titular Black Road.
The art is bloody gorgeous. Thick blacks, and muted, earthy tones perfectly compliment the bleak, curt storytelling. Magnus is the only speaking character cast in shadow. His doubt cutting rough lines on his face to show a man covered in shadow, sorrow, and guilt. It could be indicative of his neutral stance in the war.
This is excellent storytelling through art. Though some of the inner dialogue prefers to tell, rather than show (which I’m less fond of), the backstory and brief history lesson are a welcome way to explain the setting.
And it’s as unique a setting as you’ll find in the realm of comics. A holy war, from the perspective of a neutral pawn, beset on both sides by strife.
The biggest problem? It ends far, far too soon. This first issue is a slow burn… spending lots of time setting the stage, and less time beginning the story. And just as things start picking up, we reach the end.
OVERALL RATING: 9/10 Norsemen converted.
Like a good first issue ought to do, I’m genuinely eager to pick up #2 next month!