Review: Black Road Vol.2: A Pagan Death
Writer: Brian Wood
Art: Garry Brown
Colours: Dave McCaig
Letters: Steve Wands
Publisher: Image Comics
‘Having located Bishop Oakenfort on the extreme northern coast of Norssk, Magnus the Black moves in on this rogue Vatican outpost with the intent to shut it down. But as formidable a Viking warrior as Magnus is, he is still one man versus a fortress. The epic conclusion to the story started with volume one’s “THE HOLY NORTH.”
Collects BLACK ROAD #6-10.’
What is it with the Viking genre? Why do the plots’ sense of perspective seem magnified beyond anything set in any other location, possibly even outer space? Why do distances appear further, mountains taller and grudges deeper? If there’s one thing that Black Road does very well is to create a sense of perspective that feels immense. So when we pick up this second volume in the Black Road series, expect more immeasurable feelings of vastness, due to epic vistas as well as the overflowing, raw emotion boiling over from within the characters; a metaphor for very lava fields where we find the action take place. So, what exactly will this vastness manifest itself?
Visually, it’s hard to ignore the unbeatable use of light and shadow – at once giving the already hefty Magnus an even greater impression of massiveness. In fact, throughout the book, the use of colour contrast is striking. Silhouettes meld into background rock formations and human shadows become scenery. This aids the quest-like nature of the plot, with Magnus in need of access to Bishop Oakenfort in order to bring an end to the breakaway Christian sect that looks set to bring pain and more bloodshed to their lands. With his undeniably talented sidekick in tow, Magnus uses his natural born skills to enter the Bishop’s compound and this is where the epic ending to this particular arc is realised. Wood’s digressions, however, are where we feel the full force of the quality of writing. Historical footnotes invite us into Magnus’ range of motivations and Wood layers these motivations on top of an already fragile grounding for a violent invasion by the Christians. This could be read as a metaphor for many of the uninvited situations the world finds itself in today, militarily or economically. Magnus’ fears become our fears but it’s his measured and earnest approach to retribution that makes his character stand out as a moral one.
It would have been easy for a man of Magnus’ size and ability to let rip with the battle axe and slay all who have dared upset what was once a balanced civilisation, but Wood has created a character who represents the reality in life; even the man mountains must adapt because that’s just how progress happens. Fight to the death, and risk your own annihilation. Magnus’ fallibility is witnessed in the final chapter where we see him fall at the hands of some bar flies, in what was clearly a monumental flashback. We, the readers, see that he isn’t the hero of the series, but just a human who wanted to try to put something right, in this case put a friend’s death to rest.
This is a very human story but one whose sense of scale overwhelms and unsettles the reader. If ever you wish to feel something, something that reminds you what it feels like to have too much to handle, pick through this volume. Read it again and again to fully grasp the sense that history, religion, our very planet, and the people on it will continue to do what they do, no matter what choices we make.
Thank you for reading our review of Black Road Vol.2. We here at the Chico Comics Page appreciate your viewership. We invite you to check back with us soon as we post often. Or, you can follow us on Facebook (The Chico Comics Page) and Twitter (@ChicoComicsPage) for regular updates on all of our posts.
Review written by Arun S.
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