Makoto Yukimura’s epic series is back with Book 8 hitting American shelves in the last week of December. This nearly 400 page volume progresses the story, involves new drama, and continues the tale of Thorfinn in the year 1018.
Vinland Saga Book 8 (Kodansha Comics)
So what’s it about? The summary reads:
Free at last, Thorfinn sets off on an expedition to Vinland, to establish a place free of war and slavery. In an effort to fund his project, Thorfinn visits Iceland where Halfdan, a wealthy man who shared a dark history with his late father, awaits. Meanwhile, the marriage between Halfdan’s son Sigurd and Leif ’s relative Gudrid are well under way, but Gudrid dreams of becoming a sailor, not a bride. A battle soon breaks out as Gudrid attempts to escape aboard Leif ’s ship. With Sigurd hot at their tail, Thorfinn and the crew press eastward to the city of Miklagard, picking up an orphaned baby and a dog along the way…
Why does this book matter?
When a book’s first few volumes are all about war and its protagonist being very good at killing you take pause when the story switches gears and the character swears to never kill again. Makoto Yukimura quickly changed the subject to slavery, which was a fascinating new direction especially given the the time period of 1018. This volume carries that further as he attempts to create a new world where slavery and peace are the key and it happens to be in Vinland (AKA today’s United States of America).
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
I don’t think he smiles much.
Though the violence has been taken down to a minimum, I continue to find myself enraptured with the story of Vinland Saga. Yukimura certainly opens this volume in an unsure way having wrapped up Thorfinn’s lust for killing and living as a slave in the previous volumes. Thankfully though, this book redirects his trek to Vinland in a surprising way, introduces new characters, and continues to find interesting ways to mine for drama. The goodness in Thorfinn is one of the reasons the story is so compelling as the world is a cold and chaotic place in 1018; he wants peace and to end slavery at a time when looking out for yourself and amassing wealth was all that mattered.
The big plan is laid out in this volume as Thorfinn and his friends (including real life Leif Erikson) seek to find a donor to fund their expedition. This of course is met with disdain given the very real possibility they won’t be able to pay anything back having travelled to the far off Vinland. This leads to promises, plans, and new parties joining their band. Yukimura appears to be fleshing out the characters for the long haul, with a spunky girl, a helpful dog, and even a baby. These characters help make the narrative more spontaneous and give Yukimura more ways of adding a bit of humor and intrigue into the story.
The new direction of the story doesn’t have any interest in forgetting Thorfinn’s past sins. You might be wondering how a guy can promise never to kill when he’s being directly attacked and that concept comes up here. Thorfinn can’t escape his past, the cliffhanger is a promise of that, but the idea of never killing and the purpose of corporal punishment is explored. It appears Yukimura is very interested in what a perfect and peaceful world would look like – just as Thorfinn is – which is a conflict in a world where entire villages can be pillaged.
The art is incredible as always and it’s no wonder it takes a team to draw this book. Yukimura is incredible at drawing faces and facial expressions with panels jumping off the page at times with incredible emotion. The timing is perfect too, with moments of surprise and shock appearing at just the right moment for comedic effect. Clothing and the surroundings continue to look top notch too. While light on action, this volume has its moments and they hold quite a lot of tension and intensity. This book is incredibly good at placing you in the time and place which is in large part due to this exceptional art.
It can’t be perfect can it?
I do miss the action though! Yukimura had a way of building up a to the battles and then delivering pulse pounding violence. This volume has some action, but to be honest, a lot of the book involves characters calmly talking to each other. That’s in part due to it taking quite a bit of time to set Thorfinn and his band on their new adventure. They don’t set sail till page 223, which is over halfway through this volume. While character development is important, the story twiddles its thumbs too long.
It’s all about perspective.
Is It Good?
Vinland Saga is thought provoking, gripping, and deeply real. This volume continues that trend, and while it’s slower in pace with very little action, it’s hard to not want to be sucked into its story.