The Black Road #1 (Image Comics)
Years ago, Brian Wood created Northlanders, an awesome comic that focused on Vikings, and now he’s returned to the world of Norsemen with The Black Road. A new Image series with art from Garry Brown, Black Road is a pretty different book from Northlanders. Yes, they both take place within the same general era of history, but Black Road is a decidedly different take on the Viking genre. In fact, it shares a lot more with classic Noir stories than with Wood’s previous Viking book.
The Black Road stars Magnus the Black, a massive wandering mercenary who is hired by a local priest to take him the Northern Coast, also known as (you guessed it), The Black Road. Despite Magnus’ repeated warnings of the dangers that will await them, the Priest is adamant that Magnus takes him along this road. Of course, things go awry for Magnus, which is one of the book’s few faults here. A lot of ground is covered in this opening issue, so much so that I got the feeling that Brian Wood just couldn’t wait to get to the events towards the end of this issue and just decided to hit fast forward on the middle portion of his script. It’s a little disappointing, if only because I was really enjoying the world Wood had created.
However, in the characterization department Wood doesn’t disappoint. While we don’t know everything about Magnus’ past after reading this issue, we are given just enough to understand his motivations, and he’s a pretty compelling lead character. There’s also a really great moment with Magnus and the Priest discussing baptisms, and while the Priest doesn’t know why Magnus is so curious, we do, and it makes for a really poignant moment in the book.
Garry Brown’s art is a great fit for this book, and he really captures the feel that Brian Wood’s script suggests. This is a down and dirty look into the times of Vikings and early Europe, and you get that feeling from looking at Brown’s pencils. There isn’t much action in this opening issue, but the one big pivotal fight on the Black Road is handled really well too.
The Black Road has a very solid foundation set down now, and I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on this book. While it’s a little rushed in parts, the compelling lead characters and mystery behind what’s at the end of the Black Road make Brian Wood’s latest a good book to seek out.