The Book: Set during the 8th century AD amidst the tundra and glacier scarred valleys of northern Scandinavia, The Secret of the Aesir describes the journey of a contingent of Viking warriors, who guided by their knowledge of the far north, discover a mystery that is older than the Aesir, older than Odin himself.
The Review: Fighting Fantasy books and 2000AD “Future Shocks” fans may recognise Alan Langford‘s name as the creator of The Secret of the Aesir, but for many comic reqders of today, I suspect his name might be a mystery. Which is a shame, because his comic art is, to be frank, pretty jaw-dropping.
Better known now as an equestrian artist, a full member of the Society of Equestrian Artists specialising in Equestrian, Fantasy and Historical art, Alan, who lives in the New Forest, began his artistic career in 1979. Back then, he was working as a full time illustrator of topographical scenes in pen and ink, which were transferred on to copper plaques. After three years, he went freelance, working through a Fleet Street artists agency, mainly illustrating comics, including 2000AD, Eagle and SuperNaturals.
Since his comics days, he’s illustrated history books, encyclopaedias, the aforementioned fantasy game books, adventure stories, and more, also also working for the BBC illustrating the stories of Romulus and Remus and Androcles and the Lion for the children’s television programme, ZIG ZAG.
Clearly, however, Alan had an itch – and that itch was writing and drawing his own full-length graphic novel, a medium for which he clearly has a great love, noted in the the preface of The Secret of Aesir, and more than evidenced by the quality of the art of this SF historical adventure.
Consider that itch well and truly scratched, because The Secret of Aesir is very much worth your attention.
Largely told across a period of just a few days, The Secret of Aesir centres on a group of warriors heading northwards through what is now known as Scandinavia on a quest to “bear witness to … to the gods of our people”. What they actually witness turns out to be, as readers will recognise, the site of a spaceship crash – and from there, the adventures of the troop take a turn into wonder, from encountering dwarves through to lake-dwelling monsters.
It would be wrong of me to spoil the story, but running to over 120 pages of gorgeous black and white art, in terms of style The Secret of the Aesir harks back to a kind of devotion to craft some might argue is rarely seen, and the title is more than worthy of comparison with the epic feel of many European graphic novels. Yet, while harking back to Eagle, Lion, Look and Learn and “Trigan Empire”, what you actually get is a sophisticated, thoughtful take on “cargo culture” that is thoroughky modern and hugely enjoyable.
My artist friend Smuzz rightfully describes The Secret of the Aesir as “one of those ‘comics like they don’t make any more’ which is just very newly made”, which sums up The Secret of the Aesir rather perfectly. It is very definitely the kind of graphic novel many will enjoy, given opportunity.
It’s not without fault – for me, the storytelling sometimes jars, and this is for the most part very much a story of events, rather than a story of individual characters. But as a the work of one creator – writing, drawing and lettering the entire tale – such commentary is incidental in the face of such beautifully drawn pages, that proved a sheer delight to turn.
I’d urge you to head toward the The Secret of the Aesir official web site to find out more, or simply take a punt, having seen here just what is on offer and – go buy it!
As well as his illustration work, Alan enjoys painting in oils and watercolours on location, usually in the open tract of the New Forest, the Isle of Purbeck and Dartmoor. He is also frequently asked to demonstrate his techniques to a growing number of amateur art societies. Copies of his book of equestrian art, Welgora, are available from Little Knoll Press.