Cullen Bunn is a master of historical fiction-fantasy. The Sixth Gun is one of the few "must read" books published recently, and Helheim (2013) wasn't far behind it in quality. Now, Bunn and Helheim artist Joelle Jones re-team to bring fans of the original mini-series a sequel featuring the continuing adventures of Rikard, the draugr.
What's Happening: Young Brand and Sigrid are searching the Scandinavian forest for the now legendary Rikard, a draugr (and undead Norse warrior-you've played Skyrim right?) for help with a beast that it terrorizing their town. Mordvig, as the beast is called, viciously killed Sigrid's father, a fact that softens Rikard's heart toward her, and her people's, fight against the beast. Rikard leads the pair to his home with the spae-women (witches) who are seeking out the sorcerer Raevil with their magics. Rikard leaves to kill the beast, but this demonic creature (a rather powerful bear) might prove too much even for Rikard...
The Writing: This is a Cullen Bunn joint so of course the story is solid, but the entire issue feels like a set up with very little literal plot advancement. New characters, who are probably going to be sticking around, are introduced and the main plot of the miniseries is established, but the whole incident with the bear does little more than establish that Sigrid is a tough girl and Rikard is not invulnerable...to pain at least. Long on set up, short on plot development, but strong on characterization, this rather lackluster first issue was a necessary evil en route to what one hopes is a more elaborate and quicker moving plot in issue #2.
The Artwork: Joelle Jones once again brings this pseudo-Norse world to beautiful and realistic life here. The dress and styles of the characters look as if they would fit perfectly on the History Channel's Viking's storyboards. Plenty of background detail and realistic surroundings fill each and every panel. There is a bit of a manga type feel to some of the facial expressions though. At times Brand's visage is almost cartoonish, but it's a slight distraction from the realism of the artwork overall. Nick Filardi's colors are what really complete the look and feel of Brides of Helheim #1. The constant auroras that he hints at in the night sky really solidify the location and feel of a Scandinavian landscape.
The Verdict: Another horror/historical fiction book from Cullen Bunn published by Oni Press. At this point, do I really need to tell you anything else to convince you to check it out?