Written by Cavan Scott | Art by Staz Johnson | Published by Titan Comics | Format: Paperback, 32pp
In the interests of full disclosure I have never actually watched the Vikings TV show on which this is based, though not because I never thought it looked interesting. With so many good shows on at the moment, it just didn’t make the cut. I approached this comic as a potential way of getting me interested enough to make time for the show, which is presumably the point of the book existing in the first place. No complaints with the chosen creative team, Cavan Scott especially having a good pedigree in adapting television and genre properties to the page. Staz Johnson has a long list of Marvel and DC credits among many others, so is similarly a solid choice as artist, and Richard Elson his co-artist has a decent track record also.
So what exactly is Vikings? (beyond being about, er, Vikings). This particular story takes place between seasons 2 and 3 of the TV show, though that is only relevant to ongoing fans as apparently some of the featured cast of this story have died since. To newbies like myself you can just jump straight in and not worry. Vikings follows the story of Ragnar Lothbrok, a man who rose from being a simple farmer to becoming a great Viking leader, the first to begin raids on an England then divided into several small kingdoms. He leads a colourful group of characters, helpfully listed in a character bio page at the front, and that brings all the power plays and intrigue you would expect. Although they are Vikings, one can assume there will be plenty of soap opera shenanigans, seeing as how ex-wife’s, jealous friends, and ambitious brothers are in the mix.
The main story arc here is concerning Ragnar’s intent to form a peaceful alliance with Ecbert, King of Wessex, allowing the raids to end in favour of Vikings settling in England. However, as always with these things, there is suspicion and distrust on both sides, with many looking to stop such an alliance. The Christians view the Vikings as pagans, the Vikings view the Christians as weak and foolish. Meanwhile, back in the Viking lands there is unrest at failing harvests and apparent bad omens, and the rule of Queen Aslaug, (who is in charge until Ragnar returns) is being questioned by some. There is, as you would expect, a lot of set-up in this issue, a lot of introducing the characters and locales, and the situations they all find themselves in. Although they seem to have disappeared from publishers now, this would have been an ideal #0 issue to set up the main comic.
This was a decent enough start to the book, if not overly thrilling. Nothing was here that made me feel as though I would be rushing out to buy the next issue. Certainly not the fault of the creative team, I thought script and art were very good considering the constraints. There just may not be enough meat on the bones to make a satisfying ongoing story with these characters. The art throughout was very good, lots of close up facial shots to emphasize the emotions that were very important to the set-up here. Solid work.
I tend to give first issue a little leeway, as by their nature they have to contain some introduction and some set-up, to allow the story to begin in earnest. However, they must also inject in enough content to make you want to return to see exactly where the story goes once it starts properly. This first issue of Vikings did the former, but not the latter.
Let’s hope next issue can hit the ground running.
Vikings #1 is out now from Titan Comics