580 A.D. in the frozen north lands.
Across the icy hills come a ragged band of Vikings. They are frantic, struggling to stay ahead of their pursuers. Their breaths blowing out in smoky clouds from frost ravaged throats; the adrenaline of fear pumping through their veins. All their collective thoughts focused on evading their enemies, escaping the death that they sense sprinting up behind them.
But one of these Vikings is not cowered by his fear though he feels it. For Rikard is the mightiest warrior of his village. A man sure of his strength. Determined to not only triumph over his foe but also full of steely resolve to protect his friends. And so even as his fellows pull ahead of him, he lingers, refusing to leave a dying comrade – until the vision appears to him. A vision of himself dead. A forewarning of some horrid future that Rikard cannot imagine coming to pass. And one that terrifies even so bold a Viking as him into abandoning his friend and taking to his heels to outrun fate.
And still the wild men pursue. They of the shaggy animal pelts and wild eyes, lapping behind Rikard and his fellows with their savage stamina, baying for blood and willing to pursue their quarry unto the ends of the world. But Rikard and his fellow Vikings’ fear gives them speed. Speed that they use to reach the gates of their village before the wild men can catch up.
But lo, the gates are barred. Nor can they be opened with the savages so close behind, and so Rikard and his friends turn to fight, swinging their bloody weapons with mighty sinews while they scream out their rage and fear at their enemies until not one of the wild men remain alive to accost them.
Survival so dearly won quickly slips from the Vikings hands, for the corpses of the wild men begin to rise again after death – zombies intent on the destruction of all the living of the village. A horrible nightmare that has played out many times before in this land, as two witches wage a war of dark magic that rises up demons, zombies, and draugh to gift death to all those living who dare harbor the other’s rival.
Helheim is one of those hodgepodge stories, filled with images of old school Vikings, wicked witches, monstrous monsters, demonic magic, and hungry zombie. Out of this amalgamation, Cullen Bunn (story) and Joelle Jones (artwork) weave a blood spattered tale that – while depressing more than horrific – still manages to be entertaining and enjoyable. It is a simple page turning graphic novel, filled with incredibly gory battle scenes, realistic witches, and a straight forward story. The only thing it lacks is a hero of any sort though Rikard is arguable the protagonist.
All in all, I enjoyed Helheim. The only major complaint I had was that in the middle of the book the story skipped forward in time, skimming over what I felt was very important details and instead setting up a grand battle. Other than that, the story was fine, and the artwork was even better.
Received as an ARC from the publisher.
Buy Helheim Volume 1: The Witch War at Amazon.