[Comic Review] Northlanders: Sven The Return

NorthlandersWriter: Brian Wood
Artist: Davide Gianfelice
Publisher: Vertigo

Review: In honour of Brian Woods new historical epic, Rebels which will be hitting shelves this month from Dark Horse, I thought I’d take a look back at his previous masterpiece, Northlanders. Over its 50 issue run, Northlanders focused on a series of short and long story archs set within the Viking age, the first of these stories was Sven the Returned which remains to be one of the most popular and well known from Woods Viking epic.

Set in 980 AD, Sven an accomplished Viking returns to his homeland in Orkney with the intention of reclaiming his inheritance before returning back to his lavish life back in the Mediterranean. Sven is stalled in his quest as his vile uncle, Gorm has stolen Sven’s birthright and Sven is now viewed as an outsider and traitor. Sven seeks vengeance on his uncle and becomes a one man killing machine as he wages war against his uncle’s organization as he finds himself drawn back into the life that he sought to rid himself from.

I first discovered Northlanders in late 2010 as a tradeback collection of the Sven the Returned story arch, this was also the same time that I was discovering the rest of Woods back catalogued which included Demo and DMZ. Northlanders stuck out for me mostly due to the fact that I grew up with tales and legends of Vikings as well has having a strong Celtic background, but mostly because I do love a good historical epic, especially one filled with gritty action.


Woods script is spectacular, as he manages to craft what may appear to be a simple revenge drama into something much more. He has done his homework and it shows in the dialogue, particularly Sven’s narration about what it is to be a Viking. Of all the Viking tales that have been told over the years, this is handsdown the best. Davide Gianfelice (Greek Street and Conan) provides the artwork for the bulk of the series, and his work in Sven the Returned is some of his finest work to date. The artwork is far more gritty than anything seen in comics since Frank Millers 300 and it actually surpasses Millers epic.

Sven the Returned is a great read for old and new fans of Woods work and will definitely get you hooked on the rest of this amazing series, and is a book that I reread on a regualr basis. Sven is the only character to reappear again throughout the Northlander series in #20, Sven the Immortal which picks up years after the events of Sven the Returned.


Review written by Christopher Innis

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