In “The Plague Widow Part Four”, Gunborg and his men attempt an excursion to a nearby rival trading settlement for help, braving the harsh cold and ravenous wolves that roam the countryside. Meanwhile, back at the Volga River settlement, Thorir, a townsman, attempts to court Hilda, and raises the deadly ire of Jens, Gunborg’s nephew, who also desires her…
Wood continues to move his pieces about his chessboard story of desperate Viking settlers on The Volga River trying to survive a plague, an unforgiving deep winter, and each other. As of yet there has been little direct, and even less deadly, confrontation amongst the settlement’s leaders and rivals, but the war of words and wills turns violent at the end of this chapter foreshadowing the unavoidable bloodshed to come. The conflict between Boris, the settlement’s Russian priest and voice of semi-reason, and Gunborg, the hated and feared strongman/merchant leader, will be nothing if not terribly bloody, and one gets the sense that it’s coming soon. Gunborg tells Boris “…I swear to Mary Mother of Christ that if you stand in my way one more time I will gut you from balls to brains and feed you to the hogs, the old man be damned.”
Fernandez continues his starkly powerful artwork this issue. As attention switches from the settlement to the woods surrounding it, Fernandez’s minimalistic style really conveys the vast emptiness of the surroundings and the oppressively stifling feeling the dense woods create. Wide, near panoramic, depictions of the surrounding countryside coupled with up close scenes of the men’s deadly battle with the wolves shift the reader back and forth visually from a tense, tight, and oppressive sense of confinement to wide open dread at the distances needing covered to make it to the next settlement.
The story and art in “The Plague Widow” continue to deliver a solid and engaging story. The constant war of words between Boris and Gunborg is wearing thin though and the conflict (which has been looming since the first chapter) between the two needs to come to a head. It should prove to in the next few chapters, and the event should be worth the buildup.