Helheim #1 Review
By: Rob Neil Gruszecki
In the year 580 A.D an injured and frightend group of vikings charge through a dark forest. One of the clan holds a cloth to his neck to try and stop the blood draining rapidly from the wound and hopefully outrun the onslaught of possessed dogs and psychotic barbarians that gain on them with every step through the winter terrain in this northern region. Rickard, the son of clan leader, Kirk, tries to aid his injured brother when he sees a vision of himself in a lake, bleeding from the eyes and dressed in royal garb, a brutal omen that will play out as the story unfolds. Broken warriors struggle for their breath, damsels are offered before demons with reckless abandon, the corpses of those fallen are reanimated without conflict, heads roll and death reigns beyond a threshold even gods can’t escape.
Helheim is an excellent mashup of vikings and sorcery as if Brian Wood’s Northlanders was smashed together with Mike Carey’s God Save the Queen to be placed between Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead on either side. Mixing all sorts of exciting genres to create a riveting, rapidly paced, adventure story that grabs you from page one and refuses to let go without even giving you a moment to catch your breath.
Cullen Bunn (The Sixth Gun, Deadpool Killustrated, The Tooth) combines violence, romance, family strife, war and sorcery to deliver a first issue of a new ongoing series that tosses twists at you in impressive succession. Just as you feel you’ve been given the gist of the situation that will be the inherent driving force behind the action of Helheim a new element is introduced adding another welcome layer to this already rich tapestry of chaotic story. The dynamics and beats within this first issue are something not commonly seen within comics these days lying within the fact that an awful lot actually happens in this first issue. A lot of character development, world building and set-up is presented very quickly and in turn packs this comic so full that by the turn of the last page the revelation is an effective cliffhanger that leaves us curious for next month’s issue but also perpetuates the feeling that the impact of the last-page reveal isn’t lost and a perfectly fluid understanding of the relevance can be achieved with simply one full read through. Light dialogue keeps the pacing steady and refrains from interrupting the flow throughout as well.
Artistically, Joelle Jones’ pencils are stunningly sinister, reminding me at times of Tradd Moore (Legend of Luther Strode) and fit the ruthlessly violent and brutal tone of the book perfectly as Rickard battles skeleton armies rising from corpses of slain enemies and powers of necromancy are used at will to defeat weary vikings in their final push to victory. Her style is both charmingly cartoony and ruggedly intense. Swirls of detailed smoke surround the monsters as Rickard fights for his own life and those of his village’s innocents and a particularly surprising decapitation is illustrated amazingly. The pair of Bunn and Jones gives the book a comfortable feel like you’ve been reading the team work together on this title for years.
Cullen Bunn and Joelle Jones make for a terrific line-up on a fast and frightening trek through a war torn north as vikings face all matters of magic, ghostly apparitions and their endless struggle for the ones they love and their puppet-like control over their every action. Issue one of Helheim from Oni Comics comes with as high a recommendation I can attribute to a book as not a single page is wasted within’ this fury of a comic and we are tossed into the mayhem seamlessly with the very first page.
Rob Gruszecki is a writer, musician and Wednesday warrior
Follow him on twitter @Ghost_Factory
Listen to his music www.ghostfactorymusic.com