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My girlfriend is right, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but everyone does. So it’s very important that your book cover creates a great first impression. And yes, it applies to comics as well. It’s the cover of a new issue or volume that I haven’t seen before that will pique my curiosity first. Only after, I’ll have a quick peak inside and if the art and the vibe please me, I go for it. That’s what happened with Black Road. It was not difficult as I love everything related to vikings, but for comics you need to enjoy the visuals. Black Road has a specific style of art, but it works. I’m following the comics now, and after a short break after the 5th issue, it’s back on the shelves on top of the first volume. So I think it’s the right time to tell you more about it and convince you to walk on the Black Road with Magnus.
A Predictable Story in a Viking Age: It Works
Magnus is this massive bald bearded viking. Set up in Norway during tensions between Christians and Pagans, Magnus is neither but a man true to his word. Once he accepts to escort some important cardinal down the Black Road, a dangerous path full of blood, Magnus fails in an ambush and witnesses the death of his protected ones. A little girl, Julia, shows up and seems to be linked to the whole situation. Together, they decide to keep following the Black Road and track the murders.
Even though it may all sound cliché, there’s a lot of information we don’t know and we keep thinking about. While we follow both Julia and Magnus, we learn more about him through some flashbacks of his violent life. We can’t help but think of a father-daughter relationship between the two, but Julia is actually much resourceful than that and will teach Magnus a lot. So will he.
An Art As Brutal As Their Lifestyle
I was a bit turned off when I started reading it. But as I kept going, I started to love the style of the drawings each day more. I find the art is as brutal as the story. It’s not sharp, with uneven lines, like a sketch. Details lie only in what’s important, the faces, the eyes; but overall, they are straight and angular lines, even blurry at some parts. It might drive some people away unconvincingly, but I think it definitely matches the vibe and the story. While a book might be judged on similar criteria, with comics you end up having to judge the drawings. This has to suit the style of the tone, so whether is going to be serious, funny, etc. But it will also have to match the story, and I wouldn’t like to see this kind of lines anywhere else. For a viking story, it’s perfect.
A Pace That Will Not Bore You To Death
You might get a different feeling if you are reading the volumes, but the issues appear as a quick and short scene. One issue can actually stand on its own, with its own end and beginning, but it remains open enough to make you eager for the rest and keep going. Unlike most of the DC Rebirth, you only get one issue per month, like other comics. And on top of that it was quite a long wait between issue 5th and 6th due to the short break they took.
You’ll learn about Magnus past through flashbacks that will occur at some specific moments of the present. You start getting attached to this brute and you more and more curious how could he have ended up the way he is now.
Finally, the lapse of time is as simple and brutal as the art. You just get a “Later” or “A Bit Later” in capitals and that’s it. It keeps you engaged and speeds up the pace.
Should You Get It?
Black Road is one of those comics that are not well known despite the fact it’s published by Image Comics. I can’t tell you how difficult it is to find good pictures on Google. And that makes me sad to be honest. Black Road is an absolute gem among the comics you have on the shelves at the moment. It’s easy to dive into this viking age while a war between Christians and Pagans is about to start. In 5 issues you only learn a few pieces, one per issue. It might even confuse you sometimes, but just for enough time until you understand where Brian Wood (creator) wants to take you. In the end, you simply can’t have enough.
If you’re looking to read something besides watching Vikings (and supposing the comics version of Vikings isn’t for you), then Black Road might be the right choice. If you enjoy this period of history, this is also the choice for you. Finally, if you are bored and looking for something a bit different than what is on the shelves, this is for you too. I’m rating only the first 5 issues, and it will probably get a higher rate when I will know more of the story.
To me, this is Gold.
French geek. Let's get this straight. I've put my ass in front of a computer at the age of 4 or 5. I couldn't even read but I could put a password on the family computer. My first videogames were Pacman/Galaga/Pole Position trio (& Dig Dug for the bonus). I've always been a gamer. Aging, I've started expanding my horizons.