Cullen Bunn and Joëlle Jones venture back into the world of witches, draugr and Helheim. Is the return good?
Brides of Helheim #1 (Oni Press)
If you were thinking the main protagonist would be Rikard and the witches, you are in for surprise. Sigrid, a fiery young blonde, carries the weight of the story. She is accompanied by her friend, Brand, as they journey to the Old Village. Bunn provides an excellent build-up for those unfamiliar with the backstory of Helheim (like this reviewer). He creates a sense of fear and foreboding with regards to the Old Village. There are tales and stories the elders have whispered in the young ears of Sigrid and Brand. Brand, especially, has a healthy fear of the Old Village and the potential realities of his fate.
The two are pushed to make this potentially life-ending journey because their village has come under threat. Sigrid and Brand are willing to risk their own lives and face death in order to preserve their village and way of life.
And face death they do. The draugr, Rikard, and his pack of wild dogs block the path of Sigrid and Brand. Sigrid takes center-stage in the encounter. Joëlle Jones provides a fearless image of the young warrior as she places her hands on the pommel of her sword, ready to defend herself and the corpse from the pack of dogs. Her courage is quickly vanquished with the appearance of Rikard, but she recovers quickly beseeching him for assistance in the slaying of Mórdvíg, a great beast preying on her village.
There are some odd discrepancies in the artwork during this sequence. The body of the corpse seems to disappear underneath the blanket covering it. It just appears to be a blanket lying crumpled and strewn on the ground.
The artwork also misses on continuity. When Rikard, Sigrid, and Brand begin to seek out the Mórdvíg, two wolves are at Rikard’s side, but when they arrive at the beast’s lair they are nowhere to be seen. The arrival of the beast is also a tad disappointing. Bunn and Jones have built up expectations of a most fearsome creature that has appeared to suck the life out of Sigrid’s father. Unfortunately, the Mórdvíg is nothing more fearsome than a grizzly bear.
The battle is action-packed, however. Rikard swings his massive axe wounding the bear, but only manages to enrage the beast’s fury. The bear savagely charges and mauls him, moving into a kill stance tearing Rikard’s rotting head from his torso. Jones’ art turns a mere grizzly bear into a fearsome beast: a true threat for Rikard. Nick Filardi’s use of black on the bear’s underbelly gives it a sense of evil. However, he overuses the color when he changes the color of the bear’s blood from red to black. He does an excellent job with Jones’ background creating the Nordic vibe with a greenish blue sky that adds a sense of otherworldliness to the book.
Bunn and Jones end the book by adding the supernatural back into the world of Helheim and setting up an epic journey and hinting at a most fearsome and powerful villain that will test Rikard, the witches, and possibly his new companions.
Is It Good?
The story was average, neither exciting nor compelling. There was no “Holy Crap” or “That was Awesome” moment. The artwork and coloring though good for the most part had some faults when it came to continuity and the corpse-covered blanket. The most disappointing part of the story was the reveal of the monster, although the battle sequence with the grizzly bear was well-done, a he proved to be a worthy opponent.