Johanna Previews Northlanders, Afterburn

People send me PDFs for review. Here's my thoughts on a couple. Bear in mind that I use a laptop, so my screen space is minimal, and by the time I blow up the pages to be able to read the dialogue, I'm looking at individual panels, not full pages. It's not the most ideal format, but it's effectively free for both of us.

Northlanders #1, DC/Vertigo

If I say "Brian Wood's Viking comic", you've likely already made your decision on whether it sounds like something you'd like. But there's more to it than you might suspect.

The preview copy I saw was uncolored, which put me at a disadvantage. Artist Davide Gianfelice has a very European look to his linework, and I think the density will be easier to parse in color. That's a compliment, actually, that he has very full pages with plenty happening. Reminds me of Walt Simonson's work. Plenty of violence, too, as suits the material.

Our hero Sven has just found out his uncle has claimed his inheritance upon his father's death. (Very Shakespearean.) Uncle Gorm represents the old way, ruling through fear and old magic sacrifices. Sven's more cosmopolitan, better traveled, but now a stranger to these people.

Prediction: the people will learn to engage with the larger world without fear, and Sven will learn not to despise his homeland and to value more than money as he claims his birthright. It's a Very Good match between theme and setting that makes this comic about much more than bearded men swinging swords at each other.

More information at the book's website. Due December 5 at $2.99.

Afterburn #1, Red 5 Comics

A solar flare changes all life on earth, creating a post-apocalyptic world. An oil-rig worker becomes a mercenary, capturing objets d'art from depopulated zones for the rich. It's a postmodern take on Indiana Jones, only the artifacts sought after are those we'll recognize, like the Mona Lisa, and the dangerous environments are former world capitals populated by mutated zombie-like humans and animals.

It's a clever concept, immediately intriguing, and professionally done, impressively so for a small publisher. (Caveat: I don't know about print or paper quality, since I viewed this on-screen. I don't expect them to cheap out at those points, given the impression I've gotten about the company so far, but I've seen people make stupider decisions.) Some of the staging could be a little clearer. For example, if the hero's going to jump neither right nor left when confronted, but 90 degrees to the middle, the corridor that exists in that direction should be established beforehand, so his escape doesn't seem like deus ex machina.

There's a lot of fighting, too much for me to really get into the series, but it makes for fun action if that's your thing. I'm concerned that four issues, bimonthly, asks too much of the reader, though. That's a long time between hits for an adrenaline adventure, and by the time the next issue's out, you've forgotten the previous. I give it a Good.

Due in January at $2.95, can be ordered with code NOV07 3786. Read a preview at the publisher's website.