The rage of Odin decends as Mjolnir swings straight for a thousand years. The Old Gods of the north have never left, but have been lying in wait through all of history!
Our fascination with the Norse myths seems to continue over the years, and Viking stories have consistently been both fodder for pulp and for fine literature(as if they weren’t the same thing!). Viking tales of both the supernatural and of warfare, though usually taking heavy liberties with the historical facts, have always had a strong appeal as there is something both mysterious and deep in our psyche about them. Whether it is that it comes from our ancestors, or that their bravery and spirit was legendary enough that we are still telling their tales a thousand years later, these characters stay relevant today in ways that most myths are not.
So as we head towards Ragnarok, we serve those above Midgard and list the five greatest comics of Viking and Norse myth!
This is a more obscure French comic that looks at the historical character of Erik the Red, who landed on Greenland looking to build a new society. The story of this comic, which uses a beautiful style that is notable for its European origin, looks at his banishment from Iceland and the need to set to the seas to find something new to make his own.
It seems like an easy choice to go with Thor since it is really the only Viking crossover character into popular comics(unless you count Conan The Barbarian). Thor himself has been claimed as an alien in the Marvel Universe, but in the storytelling they often keep things heavily inspired by Thor’s core characters and adventure’s in the Eddas and Sagas. Thor: God of Thunder, the more recent 25-issue run from Jason Aaron, brings Thor back to his dual home of Asgard and Midgard. Here we see Ice Giants and Dark Elves return to the front and center of the universe, integrating them into the larger world filled with superheroes and science fiction storytelling. God of Thunder brings multiple storylines that play in multiple time periods, some with traditional viking periods, some in the modern world, and then into the deep future where Ragnarok is returning us to our warrior past. This may be the best modern example of Thor out there, and it is certainly one of the most inspired by the Norse tales.
- Thor: God of Thunder Volume 1: The God Butcher (Marvel Now) (Thor (Graphic Novels))
- Thor: God of Thunder vol. 2, Godbomb
- Thor: God of Thunder Volume 3: The Accursed (Marvel Now) (Thor (Graphic Novels))
- Thor: God of Thunder Volume 4: The Last Days of Midgard (Marvel Now)
Honorable Mention: The Mighty Thor – Matt Fraction
Hammer of the Gods is a great option from Michael Avon Oeming to have a more fun interpretation of the Norse gods and the warriors who followed their path. Our main character, Modi, has grown weary of a life full of pain, and is now dedicated to a mortal battle with Thor! The strong cartooning is similar to Powers and Victories, which Oeming also does, and the story is a fun retread of familiar themes in the world built by fire and ice.
This is again a recent book, and one of the most beautiful examples of a modern artwork with ancient characters. The story itself is more of a crime story that plays deeply into the Viking identity, and this sort of tribal criminal story is a common one in Viking lore and story recreation. The story itself follows Egil and Finn as they live a criminal life of raiding other warriors, and they begin to set their sites towards the daughter of a well-known tribal leader. What really stands out is the painted and almost frantic art playing with loud and aggressive characterization, and really feels like a Viking tale spun into a visceral action movie. The comic only lasted five issues, the first trade volume, which is an incredible shame, but the trade itself was released in a massively oversized format, which only adds to the presentation of the art.
The Northlanders is not only the best Viking comic in modern times, it is one of the best works from superstar creator Brian Wood. This series follows no clean continuity and is an anthology of story arcs, some short and some long, that tell different stories from the era of the Sagas. Sometimes it takes a more pagan reconstructionist view with a black metal inspired story of revenge, and then some take on a feminist parable with female warriors. Some are mystery tales, and some are tales of survival and conquest. Each story is unique, with new characters, shifting artists, and variable tones. All tell the story of the clash of the Norse Gods with Christianity that was spreading across Europe with a violent imperialism. This is not necessarily the most accurate Viking tale, but certainly not the most a-historical, and really, do we want our comics to be history lessons on Scandanavian culture?
- Northlanders Vol. 1: Sven the Returned
- Northlanders Vol. 2: The Cross + The Hammer
- Northlanders Vol. 3: Blood in the Snow
- Northlanders Vol. 4: The Plague Widow
- Northlanders, Vol. 5: Metal
- Northlanders Vol. 6: Thor’s Daughter
- Northlanders Vol. 7: The Icelandic Trilogy
– God is Dead – Jonathan Hickman (Avatar)
- God is Dead Volume 1 TP
- God is Dead Volume 2 TP
- God is Dead Volume 3 TP
- God is Dead Volume 4 TP
- God is Dead Volume 5 TP
- God Is Dead Volume 6 TP
– Conan the Barbarian (For our purposes we are going to recommend the four volume run from Brian Wood, as well as the earlier issues from Kurt Busiek. Conan is not technically a Viking character since it is not technically on earth, but it is modeled on a Viking character.)
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Thanks for the recommendations!
BTW: Conan is set very much on Earth – but the distant mythological past, rather than the Viking era. Unfortunately, Brian Wood’s entry in to the Conan saga was generally met with disappointment (he misinterpreted the character rather badly).
That is the first time we heard that Wood’s Conan was not taken well, could you elaborate more?
That’s has been the general attitude of those who are fans of the original Howard tales. Basically, Wood describes a Conan that is not familiar at all from Howard’s stories. A nice recap of the entire Wood’s series here (short review of every issue at the end of the messages):
Thank you for those recaps, they are incredibly thorough.
I have to say, Wood was my first entrance to Conan, and I was thoroughly impressed. I then went to Kurt Busiek, which I liked as well, but I’m wondering what the major differences are. Isn’t it a good thing to see a whole new take on Conan? Or was Wood’s just too far?
Wood was just too far off. What one needs to understand about Conan is that he’s fought battles and seen death since his very birth. While Wood’s run began well, he really ended up describing a more modern, civilized youth thrown into the various situations and basically forgot about Howard’s premise for Conan: barbarism vs. civilization.
Early on, I enjoyed the different interpretation, but as the series continued, it went further and further off the premise and background of the character.
A bit more of my thinking on Wood and the different interpretations of the Queen of the Black Coast story can be found here:
Conan was also not based on a viking, but rather a celt. The Hyborian age does include the Viking inspired Aesir and Vanir, however, an The Frost Giant’s Daughter certainly shouts out to Norse mythology.