Black Road #10 – Magnus the Black
Writers: Brian Wood
Art: Garry Brown
Colours: Dave McCaig
Letters: Steve Wands
Published by: Image Comics
Brian Wood’s return to the Viking genre after Northlanders, is no less epic, grim or brutal than its predecessor. You could say, in fact, Wood has a knack for brutality, with this particular series pulling no punches when it comes to violence or the threat of violence. That said, the the brutality Wood espouses doesn’t simply derive from the actions of the hardened northmen (or women), but from the landscape and leviathan mountains that cast a harrowing shadow over a people and their struggles with the onset of Christianity.
The issue follows our muscular protagonist, Magnus, on his pursuit of Julia, after the death of the local cardinal, Farina. In typical Wood fashion, the writing is weighted, usually to match whatever is weighing down on the character in focus. Furthermore, we are taken down a road with many a twist and turn; we are exposed to hints of past conversations, and peeks into prior interactions that shed light on the tracking of Julia. However, the light shed is always dulled and leaves us, in true Columbo fashion, piecing together the fragments.
Image from Black Road #8
Steve Wands, on first glance, has an easier job with the lettering due to an abundance of open spaces in the frames. Don’t be deceived! The open spaces lend themselves to the appearance of the open landscape. If the lettering fills the space, this effect could diminish; it doesn’t. The frames are left open enough and the text boxes are unobtrusive, on the whole, and matches Wood’s economy with words.
The artwork is cold, harsh and subdued. The pencilling has a very controlled feel to it and the resulting style is strongly realistic. It also ranges from minimal backgrounds, where all focus is on the characters in the frame, to wide, sweeping panoramas where greys of water or rock are allowed to contrast starkly with blinding skies. This is nothing short of stunning and left me gazing over the issue for far more time than I should have.
Overall, the tension is maintained from previous issues and carried forward to the next. Our protagonist is utterly fallible, as made clear from his new wounds and suffering at the hands of others and I’m left wondering if Magnus is even going to make it to the end of the series. I guess I’ll be reading on.
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Review written by Arun S.