There is no denying that the last decade has been a boon when it comes to Viking and Nordic themed media. All forms of entertainment and media, from Hollywood movies to television and video games, appear to have been affected by the unstoppable cultural onslaught of the northern hordes.
Although major consumer properties like Marvel’s Thor, Skyrim, or the Vikings TV shows are what might come to the mind of the average man when discussing this trend, many independent creators have looked at this theme in recent years as well. An excellent example that will be discussed today is the Ragnarok series of comics, the first volume of which has just been released in English.
The series, which debuted last year at Nordic publishing house Egmont, is created by Odin Helgheim, a Norwegian cartoonist and illustrator based in the town of Sandefjord in southern Norway. Odin, who briefly lived in South Carolina with his family as a child, spoke of how deeply his stay in America influenced him and introduced him to the world of animation and comics. Back in Norway, he gradually transformed his childish scribbles into more refined illustrations inspired by Japanese manga.
After joining Instagram and quickly gaining a significant number of followers there, Odin released her first short comic, Ōkami, on the popular Webtoons platform, where she amassed thousands of views. While the art featured in this short, seventeen-page black-and-white story might at times seem somewhat rudimentary, it already exhibited one of its author’s great passions – the Viking Age.
The following year, Odin began posting less and less fan art from popular media franchises and began uploading many more sketchbook ideas. In these skits, a brave haired young boy holding a hammer began to make a recurring appearance. This was the birth of Ubbe, the main character of Ragnarok, Odin’s first complete comic book series, set in an alternate version of the Viking world where gods, monsters, and heroes traverse the frozen plains of Midgard. (A preview in Norwegian is available online.)
The story of Ragnarok begins, like many origin stories, in a small village, where a young Ubbe leads a parish life alongside his brother Hod the boatbuilder and his fierce red-haired mother Gunnhild. When Ubbe and Hod’s father, the stern and silent Herjan, returns from a successful Viking raid, he is welcomed by all and duly celebrated in the hall of the longhouse. But beyond the village walls, a mystical threat looms and will soon bring tragedy in its wake. Only Ubbe and Thyra, a young shaman, can bring peace not only to the village, but to the whole world.
If this plot may seem a little cliché, it nevertheless manages to anchor the universe of Ragnarok, a colorful world where Vikings of both sexes are covered in tattoos, wield dragon-headed bows, and are continually covered in furs. While this general aesthetic may not appeal to the more hardcore of reenactors, this alternate, heavily fantasy-influenced approach to the Viking world remains compelling and certainly provides plenty of visual stimuli for the attentive reader. Almost every page is filled to the brim with small details that complete a flowing composition that focuses more on setting beautiful scenes than filling the pages with insane action.
In terms of colors and shading, this second volume of Ragnarok also manages to impress. Everything from flame-lit rooms to snow-capped forests and sparkling seas, looks dazzling and helps set intricate moods that may be reminiscent of modern anime, a form of media Odin particularly enjoys. When it comes to character design, however, the manga / anime influence remains more subdued and looks more like Japanese-influenced Western animation than pure manga or Franco-Belgian. comic style.
While the art of Ragnarok is without a doubt its strongest selling point, there are still areas where improvements could be made. Some scenes appear somewhat flat, with little interaction between the foreground characters and the more vague backgrounds. During the few action scenes found in this first volume, one can also be somewhat baffled by the rigidity of some of the characters and the lack of dynamic flow between the tapes, which is unfortunate given the quality and memory. of most of the characters.
Besides these few minor points, Ragnarok gets most things right. If there was only one real flaw in this series, it is the way the story leaves us at the end of this first volume, just alluding to the beginning of the adventures of Ubbe and Thyra, leaving the reader hungry for what promises to be an absolutely epic quest. For my part, I’ll do my best to get my hands on the second volume to see which direction Odin Helgheim has taken with his fascinating characters, mysterious mythological figures, and magnificent world.
Unfortunately, while I personally could just walk down the street to the local bookstore to get my hands on the second volume, putative readers who are unlucky enough not to reside in Scandinavia will have a much harder time getting their hands on the second volume. this first book. Even though the English translation has been available in Norway for several months now, no distribution agreement has been made outside of Scandinavia, and no ebook version appears to be available either. This means that the only way to get your hands on this book, for now, would be through the only Norwegian online bookstore that ships internationally, Bokkilden. This online store, however, is entirely in Norwegian, so you will likely need to contact the platform directly for assistance, whether by phone, post, or digital contact form.
However, I have no doubt that with a little time this promising new comic will be available outside of its native Scandinavia and make waves. Who knows, maybe around this time next year not only this first one, but maybe also the second volume of Ragnarok will be available worldwide and will likely end up under the Jule Tree for many Vikings, Norse Myths, and comic book fans young and old. We can only hope!