Publisher: Titan Books
Writer: Cavan Scott
Artist: Staz Johnson
When you think about it vikings may be the world’s first antiheroes. They are these groups of savage men that are utterly fascinating due to their deep mythology, love of battlefield, and unusual moral code. So it is understandable their stories are still being told centuries later. Vikings: Godhead is the first volume of the comic series based on the hit History Channel series Vikings. Despite its ties to that property it does hold well on its own merits. While fans of the series will certainly get more out of it than non-fans, those just simply looking for a thrilling Viking adventure will be able to enjoy despite the lack of background knowledge.
This first volume centers on two main stories. One focused on the character of Ragnar and his crew’s adventures in England, and the other on the characters of Siggy and Queen Aslaug as they deal with the turmoil back at home as the men are way. Writer Cavan Scott works well balancing both these plot threads to keep the books momentum going. More could have been done to tie these stories thematically together, but overall they both work in providing a complete picture of the chaotic threat that is always there. Whether it is war, famine, and mad witches true chaos is never too far away.
What is impressive about this first arc is how restrained it was to jump into the plundering action. Much more attention was paid the political games that had to be played in order to obtain desired power. Ragnar was faced with an interesting dilemma of forming unlikely alliances that many in his own clan were against.
His alliance with King Ecbert of Wessex led to some interesting interactions between the Norse Vikings and the Christian crusaders and monks. Really that was the biggest highlight of the book seeing these two very different cultures clash and attempt to coexist. In true Game of Thrones style the political games were always on as everyone had their own agenda and trust was a lost art. The only element that would keep a flimsy alliance like this together is a common foe–and that they had in Felman Losnedahl.
If there was one area the story suffers it is with the character of Felman. He is this mountain of a man Viking that seeks to bring destruction to the world around him. He is the type of villain that is more of a natural disaster than an actual character, and because of that it makes for a less compelling narrative overall.
What makes up for the lacking antagonist are some inventive set-pieces that go beyond the typical hack and slash by incorporating some tactical strategy into the massive combat. Some may be taken aback by the lack of overall action. However the strong characters, well-paced story, and intriguing narrative allowed the action that was there to have some natural weight and stakes.
Artist Staz Johnson had a challenge on his hand. It is always difficult to transplant characters based on real life people onto the comic page. Johnson did the right thing by not trying to recreate the actual people, but rather use the likeness to create his own design. His panel layout was designed well to keep the pacing going. Much of it utilized the classic nine panel grid to speed up what could have otherwise been some rather dry scenes. The only issue I had with the artwork was the inconsistency in the coloring. At times it had a washed out look and the colors would often differ greatly from panel to panel and page to page.
Overall Vikings: Godhead is in no way revolutionary in its story telling or overall quality. Typically books linked to currently running TV shows are movies are meant to be avoid at all cost. That is not case here because Cavan van Scott and Staz Johnson came together to create a book that is better than it has any business being. Fans will get further insight to characters they love while newcomers will have more reason to check out one of cables most well regarded shows.