Centuries ago, in the ancient Scandinavian Kingdom of Alstavik, there was a great war between man and centaur that almost destroyed the kingdom. Miraculously, the humans were victorious and drove the centaur hordes away to the north. 10 years later the kingdom has been divided between two brothers laying claim to the throne. Brother killing brother in a civil war for the fate of a kingdom. This is the idea behind Titan Comics’ Konungar: War of Crowns.
War of Crowns is the story of the kingdom of Alstavik perched high up in the sky on a single branch of Yggdrasil the ancient ash tree rooted into the core of the Earth by the gods. After the great Centaur War, King Ragnulf decides to make his younger son Rildrig king instead of his older son and rightful heir Sigvald. Rildrig is rash, selfish and sometimes cruel, where as his brother Sigvald is fair and just and worthy of the crown. For this reason Sigvald challenges his younger brother for the throne. During the epic battle Sigvald dominates and takes one of his younger brother’s eyes in the process, but is ultimately defeated and imprisoned as a traitor. A group of loyalists lead by Murdas break Sigvald out of his imprisonment and flee with him into the night. Over the course of almost a decade they wage war with the new king to take back the throne and bring Alstavik back to its former glory out from the ruin of Rildrig’s rule.
One day the king is informed of a village on the Northern border being destroyed by centaurs. Elfi, sister to the two brothers pleads with Rildrig to pardon his older brother and allow him to return to the kingdom and unite it once again to defend against the centaurs. She is refused and sneaks out under the cover of night to go and find Sigvald and convince him to come back home. Elfie finds her brother and after hearing about the centaur attack on the border he agrees to return with her to Alstavik. The two of them sneak back into the kingdom to meet with Rildrig and implore him to make peace with his brother. They are successful and for a moment at least it seems that there may be hope to defeat the inevitable waves of centaurs approaching.
This story is an epic work of high fantasy that was originally published in French in 2011 as Konungar: Invasion. It has since been picked up by Statix Press with translation by Ivanka Hahnenberger. It hit US comic book store shelves this week and is one of a two-part mini series. The story is written by Sylvain Runberg with beautiful artwork by Juzhen.
The writing on this story is very high caliber. Although it does have a Game of Thrones feel with the dynamic between the two brothers and the struggle for control of the kingdom, it still manages to feel original on its own. There are a few classic scenarios and character archetypes that are played upon, of course — for example, the wizard Hilmar and how he influences and manipulates Rildrig while secretly scheming with his rituals and sorceries. This has been done before, but Runberg weaves it into a tale that is so compelling the reader doesn’t want to put it down. There’s a very emotional quality to Elfie as she tries relentlessly and desperately to bring peace back to the kingdom and more importantly reunite her family once more. By the end of the volume there is a certain peace found between the two warring brothers, but there is also an underlying sinister feel as to the true nature of Rildrig accepting his brother back that is palpable and devious.
The artwork on this title is perfection. The attention to detail in texturing and colors is breathtaking on the eye. The way that Juzhen portrays emotion on the characters is masterful, especially with the character Elfie. There’s also an amazing sequence during the battle between the two brothers for the throne, where Sigvald takes his brother Rildrig’s eye. The action and intensity of the situation permeates from the page. There was a lot of work and craftsmanship that went into the making of this book visually and it shows with the turn of every page.
Konungar: War of Crowns is a fantasy masterpiece of epic proportions. It has a rich story with well defined character motivations and artwork that is magnificent to behold. I highly recommend this title to any fan of fantasy. It is action-packed, heartfelt, and complex — a must-have for any collection.