Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Rebellion Releases — 26 January 2022

Karl the Viking reviewed by Doris V. Sutherland

The first tale, “The Sword of Eingar”, includes Karl’s origin story. The saga opens with a band of Vikings pillaging a Saxon village. One of the Saxons takes arms against the Viking leader, Eignar the manslayer; and although the Saxon is defeated, Eingar is impressed by the man’s skill (“Indeed this is no ordinary Saxon! He fights like a man–like a Viking!”). He decides to adopt the Saxon’s orphaned baby, naming the boy Karl and raising him “in the harsh, barbaric manner of the Norsemen.” Karl grows into something of an inbetweener, inheriting the martial skill of the Vikings while retaining the wisdom and nobility that the comic associates with Saxons.
    After Eingar disturbs a Celtic burial ground, a mysterious crone shows up and curses the Vikings. Sure enough, bad luck follows and Eingar disappears. Karl is next in line to become chief, but his ethnic background proves a point of contention. And so, he is forced to compete with a brutal Viking named Skurl to find Eingar’s sword and prove himself worthy. Along the way, Karl meets his Saxon kindred and strikes a deal with the locals: “If I become chieftain of his markland, this village will never again suffer at Viking hands”. The story’s finale puts Karl against both his rival Skurl and the villainous nobleman who killed Eingar.
    Much of Karl the Viking feels like a halfway point between the worthy history lessons of the Eagle and the unabashed, escapist pulp of its less reputable rivals. Don Lawrence’s artwork is lavish stuff indeed, produced in an era when historical comics were treated as an extension to schoolbook illustrations. The characters are rendered with care, as are the backgrounds of thatched villages, craggy cliffs, foreboding forests and roaring seas. The weapons, armour and sailing vessels are similarly detailed, although as the strip progresses, it becomes clear that Karl inhabits a carefree mash-up of different eras. The stories are often violent but, in contrast to the later likes of Action and 2000 AD, bloodshed is seldom front-and-centre, instead being left to the imagination or summarised in textual captions (“Soon the crackle of flames from plundered cottages mingled with the screams of the dying”).

The full review can be found at the Treasury of British Comics website.

It's worth noting that Karl was the creation of Ken Mennell, who wrote at least the early episodes. Ted Cowan wrote the character, but I have yet to figure out at which point he took over. Ken Bulmer also wrote for the character but I suspect that would be an annual story. Mike Moorcock also wrote an Eric yarn for Lion Annual.

And now for this week's release...

2000AD Prog 2266
Cover: Leigh Gallagher.

Judge Dredd: Working Girl by Kenneth Niemand (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Dylan Teague (c) Annie Parkhouse
Proteus Vex: Desite Paths by Michael Carroll (w)
Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)
The Order: Fantastic Voyage by Kek-W (w) John Burns (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Kingmaker: Falls The Shadow by Ian Edginton (w) Leigh Gallagher (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Saphir: Liaisons Dangereuses by Kek-W (w) David Roach (a) Peter Doherty (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

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