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‘Tales from the Far North:’ Graphic Novel Review

Which is colder: steel in the snow or the heart of man?

The history of the world is full of comings and goings…Europeans come and the natives tend to get gone.  Tales of the Far North is a tale told out of the days of expansion during the Middle Ages and the people who are caught up in the war between the Gods.  This was not a clean kind of movement of ideas as you would hear in history texts, but a messy and often bloody meeting of the minds where villains and heroes rose on both sides.  Following a Norseman whose mission to recover a sacred talisman runs him straight into the teeth of the invaders, we bear witness to one who falls before the march of history, one whose story does not create one of the great epics, but to a lonely tale that beckons to anyone’s heart.

This book came out two years ago in Finland, authored by Henri Joella with art by Ville Koskivirta. The English version releasing now is the work of Ingus Fatuus, and the translation is great.  With the resurgence of Thor due to his MCU adventures, there’s a larger market for the lore of the great north, and I’ve always been hungry for the mythologies of that land, feeling they’d been often pushed to the back behind Greek and Roman traditions.  There’s a hardiness and hardness to the heroes and gods in that part of the world, and there’s significant badassery, as well.  What else could you describe walking into a bar and declaring it the place where you’ll meet your enemies by emptying it of the living and sending survivors to spread the word?  That’s just one of the many awesome moments that lie in wait inside these pages, and every major beat is truly epic.

I really enjoy the simple and straightforward art style employed throughout the book. It is reminiscent of old tomes and really transports you to the time period well.  The action is intense and uncompromising; people don’t die pretty in this world.  The scope of the panels never really exceeds about 30 feet, with most of the focus being on small groups, heightening the sense of being beset on all sides but ideologies backed with steel.  When the action does open to the wiser scope, the effect is very pronounced and the conservative approach makes a great counterpoint to it.  This is a master class in “less is more,” and the style celebrates it’s stark and, at times, harsh nature.

This is a good book for folks who like Man vs. The World tales, and those who enjoy the liberal smacking down of invaders.  Filled with enough fun to prevent being bogged down by the weight of the historical importance of the topic, this is a work that knows exactly what it wants to be and pursues it without question.

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