Viking: The Long Cold Fire, vol. #1 contains the first story arc of the ongoing series, written by Ivan Brandon and drawn by Nic Klein. “Drawn” in this sense is a dreadful understatement; the art in this book is a visceral masterpiece of gore and color.
What is immediately striking about this tale of Viking adventure is the glorious, large format presentation. Coming in at just over 9” by 13”, the arresting visuals and lush colors beg to be held in the hand and chewed like a leg of mutton. An iPad has got nothing on this, and yet, there seems to be something left wanting, despite the boldness and gorgeousness of it all.
As the pages turn, one is immediately transported into a waking dream of blades, long ships, grim determination, and murder. Klein’s talent is impossible to miss. The lines are thick and brash, reveling in the celebration of power-hungry, Dark Age warriors. Klein’s use of light and shadow is particularly compelling; grisly tableaus are isolated by a dreadful, inky blackness. Moments captured in firelight or by the glint of a sword positively shine with either a palpable feeling of warmth, or a bracing sense of urgency.
Unfortunately, as the pages turn, a definite sensation of vertigo creeps into the mix, as the story somehow lurches from one panel to the next, almost drunk with bloodlust. The Long Cold Fire stars two Viking brothers, Finn and Egil, as they hack and slash their way into a poorly planned kidnapping plot involving the fire-haired Annika, daughter of King Bram. Life is cheap in their world; Finn and Egil are skilled purveyors of death by metal, and their bombastic, winner-take-all morality and aims for the acquisition of power in their corner of the world provide a coldly satisfying version of brotherly love. However, author, Ivan Brandon, refrains from allowing the reader any comforts of first or third person narration, exposition, or even any descriptions of locales. All the action and dialogue is delivered through the characters themselves or through the events depicted in the panels. While this may not bother some readers, it does prove to be difficult following the plot as it cascades with reckless abandon from scene to scene. It is somehow not important to know where these Vikings go a-viking, as the intention seems to be focused entirely on the provision of Viking discourse, Viking blood, and Viking honesty. This book is a fever dream of violence, color, and debauchery.
This book is worth the price of admission simply for the art alone, regardless of the uncontrolled story. Fans of Pulp Fiction, Northlanders, and historical crime fiction splattered with noir and entrails could do a lot worse.