In more ways than one, this Northlanders installment brings everything full circle. This is also the final Northlanders story, the longest story, and probably the largest in scope.
I created Northlanders in 2006. In an effort to explain my basic concept for the book to the people at Vertigo (which was difficult; this series is a tough sell and an anomaly, format-wise) I branded it a crime book. Vikings as criminals, as organized criminal gangs. Which is, of course, exactly what they were and thats why a “viking crime story” is such an obvious, no-brainer high concept.
Also in 2006 I travelled to Iceland. This was only a couple weeks or so after DC approved Northlanders as a monthly series and my research had not yet kicked into overdrive, but that trip was hugely influential and I still use the photos I took while there to help describe landscapes to Northlanders artists.
Anyway, Northlanders started with crime and Iceland, and so it will end the same way. THE ICELANDIC TRILOGY is a distillation of everything Northlanders was ever about, 180 pages of some of the bleakest, meanest, most depressing, most abusive, most nihilistic, most human comics I’ve written. I say all that with immense pride, because I’ve written my share of that in the past.
Part One of the story - and I should explain the format: the trilogy here is a series of three stories, each three issues long, for a total of nine parts - deals with Settlement, the “wild west” days of that nation’s history when settlers fleeing hard times in Norway lands in the shores of Iceland and subject themselves to an even harder time, eking out a new life in unforgiving terrain. But a new life on their own terms, free of government, of a ruling class, free of laws and restrictions. Iceland was uninhabited, land for the taking.
The main family of characters are the Haukssons, and the young boy, Ulf, rises to the challenges of the new land in a rapid and muscular way. In these first few years of Settlement, tribes of immigrants have banded together for protection, to pool resources, and to help each other out as subsequent waves and waves of new arrivals start to crowd the shores. Much like mafia crime families, these tribes grow and expand and war with each other. Mayhem ensues. The birth pangs of a new nation. The actual history of Iceland is sketched in here loosely. I am picking milestones, such as Settlement, the conversion to Christianity, the civil war, etc as backdrops for my story, which is almost entirely fictional.
Paul Azaceta is drawing this one, taking on the double-whammy of not just drawing a 9-part story but also the burden of closing out the series. Paul’s depiction of Iceland is gorgeous in its simplicity, sweeping horizons and pebbly beaches. Exactly what I wanted - every panel a scene of stark isolation and rugged landscape is drawn beautifully. Dave McCaig and Massimo Carnevale, loyal soldiers from day one, will be here until the end.
Northlanders is cancelled, but THE ICELANDIC TRILOGY is a complete story, its content and length unaffected by the bad news. I hope everyone checks it out.