Created by Soren Mosdal
Published by Centrala Books
Oversized full colour hardback – 135 pages – 234 x 314 mm
£16.20 (Currently on sale as of 16/10/2016)
The Story: This is a comic story inspired by the historical events surrounding the colonisation of Greenland, a tale of the harshness of the north and the figures who shaped worlds and opinions.
In the year 982, a great beast of a man named Erik Torvaldsson, aka Erik The Red, left Iceland after a bloody feud with those neighbouring his lands. He travelled out and found a mysterious island to the north that he named Greenland. He was followed by men and woman of differing clans and religions.
Erik ruled this colony with an iron fist and a bloody outlook to the beginning of the year 1000AD. This is a story of many changes that are forced upon men of honour who know only their pride. It is a story of the clash of religions in their most bloody battles…
A big hardback collection of 134 full colour pages on thick stock paper, the story has been published with the financial support of the Danish Arts Foundation and was launched at the Helsinki Comics Festival in 2016.
The Review: If you are looking for a brutal and violently unforgiving book then Erik The Red: King of Winter should be right up your street. It treats life as it should do for the years that it describes, with a cheapness and suddenness. Axes and swords rain down all over the place. It delivers all this with style and a disregard for petty emotions and does this at moments with glorious relish.
At times, I found the translation, first published in Danish as Fimbulvinter by publisher Aben Maler, a little staccato and unpolished. Even the summary on the back of the hardback reads like a direct Google translation. As a result, this can affect your flow as you read the story, not helped by what I will call ‘replacement lettering’, where there could have been some balloon reshaping with the change in word count that stems from translation issues.
The art is rough at the edges, as it wholeheartedly should be. It has a sharp-edged almost punk aesthetic to its heavy blocky black inks and swirling landscapes and stylistic depiction of the cruel weather. Imagine if Mike Mignola was tripping while staring at the art of Arthur Dove and you might get a small taste of Soren Mosdal’s line work and colouring. At tims it has an alien quality to its landscapes and faces, but is done without any showy or gaudy antics.
The near hypnotic quality of the art lends itself to a halt in the action and the historical interpretation, to open up the eye and see beyond the crazy eyed violent lunacy of these figures. The history in the landscape of this world and how difficult it was to survive for its people and its geography is revealed with an impressive clarity.
I’ll be honest and say that it took me a few goes to get through the story. It’s not an area of history that I know much about and I also must admit to moments of confusion in the what was happening and who was who. But coming out the other side, I’m filled with emotion and a chilling realisation of the hardness of life in such an unharmonious world that this book describes and shows.
Erik the Red is, after all, a true story. And as such it should not be bound to a modern act structure or any of those currently overplayed clichés of set up and ending. And for this I am pleased. I never guessed how things might turn out in the tale, as I would with a modern take on the tale in terms of its teling. I was also never fully onside with anyone in the story. All the characters are, let’s face it, pretty unpleasant. But then again, harking back to my former point, why should they be likeable? They are men of battle and survival and men with their blood up in battles raging.
Erik the Red digs deeper into the culture than other Viking series we normally read or see, offering a subtext full of religion and mysticism. It deals with the world-changing, new philosophies getting adopted and the honour and regret of the people progress leaves behind. It has that edge to it that you don’t often see.
I am still mulling this book over in my mind and will be for a while. And whilst I see a number of faults within its pages, it was an emotional experience to read and a great looking artefact to hold. I also am a little bit more informed about this history.
Centrala remains an up and coming company who puts out thought provoking comics. They fall both outside of the mainstream yet do so with a confidence that you have to admire.
- Find out more about the creator of this comic at http://sorenmosdal.tumblr.com or follow him on Twitter @SGMosdal
- Have a look at what else Centrala has to offer at http://centrala.org.uk and follow them on Twitter @icentrala
Many thanks for reading.
Antony Esmond is a comic reviewer and writer – his hips don’t lie.