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Viking Fights Rule!

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Northlanders #17
by Brian Wood and Vasilis Lolos
Published by DC Comics under the Vertigo imprint

While I was in a college, I worked as an assistant store manager for a certain popular chain that sold movies, games, and CDs. They've since all but gone out of business, now only maintaining a subpar web presence. That's no surprise, as the classic business model of the walk-in record shop has been obsolete for several years now. While it lasted, though, I had a damn good time. I can't think of a better job to have had in my evenings, as I spent my days working toward my oh-so-precious English degree.

I learned so much about the music industry while I was there. I met with local reps from different labels, I was exposed to music that I would not have otherwise heard, I became familiar with a lot of independent film - the list goes on. That allowed me to interact on a much deeper level with our customers. People would come in and ask me what new album or movie they should pick up. I was able to give them, based on what they listened to/watched regularly, several different suggestions. Most of the time, they came back happy, and came to rely on me for future purchases.

This was by no means, however, a perfect job. This particular chain was one of the first to go, along with your Sam Goody's and Tower Records. I always felt that if the management over at corporate could understand the customers from a street-level point of view, they might have been able to last a bit longer. Granted, they still wouldn't have been able to combat the growing ease and a-la-carte shopping that online music services currently offer. Instead, they kept coming up with the same lame-o promotions, and ordering the same manufactured pop crap that they thought would sell. I constantly argued that we, the staff of that particular store, knew best what our customers wanted, and could tailor our inventory to meet that.

It would be easy for me to say "I told you so" at this point... so I will. "I told you so."

Now that I have that victory under my belt, I must say that I miss being that exposed to new media. I can't remember the last time I watched a non-studio film, and it makes me feel like I'm missing out on some quality entertainment. I'm still exposed to new music, but not in the way that I used to be. I used to know what trends were happening in radio, which is why I was so good at recommending some obscure stuff to other people. Now, the only radio I listen to is Howard Stern and Jason Ellis on Sirius XM, and then tune into Pandora for my music.

Of course, the job I have now far surpasses that one in every other aspect. Where else would I be able to just write about old jobs and comics? Well, I guess any number of comic review sites would allow me to do that, but how many of them would let me roam the office with my underwear outside my pants?

Yeah, we have a very liberal dress code here at the Fortress.

So, let's talk Northlanders. Brian Wood is one of my favorite writers lately. DMZ is always at the top of my to-read stack when it comes out, and Channel Zero was such a strong reminder of how important it is to think for yourself. His Supermarket series from IDW was such an awesome take on sci-fi/espionage mash-up. I could go on and on about how much good stuff this guy puts out, but I'll cut it here.

Northlanders is great, in that it's all tales about the Viking age. It's great for new readers, as each arc is independent of the previous, so you don't have to find all the back issues to know what's going on. Plus, it's viking stuff, so you know, conquering, plundering, battles, swords, and all-around savage bastardry going on. The language that Wood uses tries to stay true to the era and setting. I mean, these guys weren't refined gentleman or anything, so don't expect them to be using tea-party conversation. Expect a lot of dismemberment, and don't be shocked if there happens to be a depiction or two of rape.

None of that is glorified to any extent, just presented in a way to indicate that it was a part of the time. But there is also the glory of conquest, and the pride of defending your land. Now that stuff is glorified, but not romanticized. I don't thinK I can explain it any better than that, but I think you'll get what I'm saying if you decide to pick it up. For this particular issue, we get a done-in-one (as in, the whole story is contained in one issue) tale of a rivalry between two lords. Of course, instead of battling it out themselves, they send their "champions" to settle the score.

I'm not terribly impressed by the art here, but it works enough for what's going on. I liked Lolos' work better in some of his other books, specifically the story he had in the 24Seven anthology by Image. I felt like his backgrounds didn't provide enough setting for this story. Granted, the combat was supposed to be occurring on a barren stretch of beach, so not really much to do there.

Otherwise, Northlanders is a terrific read for someone looking to pick up a gritty read. Wood gets as historically accurate as he can, and some issues come with supplemental material to show his the events that he's referrencing. The issue here is based entirely around a passage by Harald Sigurdarson, a viking wounded in the battle of Stiklestad. He eventually recovered from that injury and became the king of Norway. I thought that was pretty awesome.

Who should read this book:
People who love barbarian/viking battles.
People who love stories based on historical events, loosely or otherwise.
People who overtip the barber.

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Nooch's Comic Reviews

More people should be reading comic books, dammit. As the resident comic book elitist, Nooch has made it his personal quest to get more noobs heading into their own dimly-lit comics dungeon every Wednesday to peruse the vastly under-rated world of sequential art.