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Northlanders by Brian Wood ran under the Vertigo imprint for 50 issues. It was a collection of stories, some single-issue, some multi-issue, all of which took place during the Viking Age. Wood took pains to be historically accurate, and his writing is excellent, but some of the best surprises come from the various artists associated with the series. In issue #1, Davide Gianfelice captured the desolate Orkney Islands off of Northern Scotland, with a splash page that introduced readers to what would be a very different kind of comic.

In a very different kind of story, “Lindisframe,” Wood explored the effects of a colonizing religion…

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In another arc, he looked at life through the eyes of an old Viking warrior–with a story reminiscent of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight.

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And in my personal favorite arc, tells a Viking CSI story.  With art by Ryan Kelly, Northlanders #11-16, “The Cross + The Hammer” (collected in volume 2 of the trade), is somewhat like John Ford’s classic, “The Searchers.”  Much like John Wayne from that film, an older hunter stalks a noble savage through the wilderness and gets into the very mind of his prey.

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That’s from issue #12, but the story gets grittier and digs deeper with each issue until at the end, which you’ll see coming but won’t want to, we get a conclusion as thoughtful and complex as any you’ll find in a “real” book.

And much of the series is, of course, about man versus nature:

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I can’t recommend this book enough–with art by the likes of Becky Cloonan, Leandro Fernández, Matthew Woodson, Fiona Staples, and many others, it’s exactly the kind of well-crafted comic we should all expect from the man behind The Massive and DMZ.

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