Cullen Bunn, famous for his other Oni Press work The Sixth Gun, brings Vikings, witchcraft and demons to the table for the first trade of Helheim. That sounds pretty f'in metal right? You've got all the right ingredients for a pretty hearty stew of black-hearted awesome.
Our story focuses on Rikard, the finest warrior in the settlement, and his band as they come back from a long hunt. Things have not gone so well as of late. The wastelands in which they inhabit are scarce in food and jam-packed with night creatures and undead. They're being tailed by fierce savages as they make their way to the gate. Rikard and the gang make quick of them, though, and soon its time to start settling down for the night. Well, it would be bed time if not for the curses laid upon the bones of the fallen. Serene nightfall gives way to horrific bloodshed and Rikard is beheaded right before his love Bera. The undead are destroyed but at such a heavy price. Bera invokes the dark arts to bring her love back and the result is a monstrous thing known as a "draugr". He is to serve his maker, the witch Bera, on her crusade against her nemesis, the old crone Groa.
I wanted to really love this book. I did. It had every single component necessary to give the Scrivener feelings of unadulterated joy and then some. Horror with heavy doses of magic, Norse warriors, demons and lots of gore. That is usually a sure-fire winner in the Tome of the Scrivz. Here is the problem, though. Cullen Bunn who gave us the rather fantastic The Sixth Gun just does NOT deliver in regards to story here. I finished with a sense that there was a lot of missed potential here. It also doesn't help that lately if you want to go to a fantasy setting it seems like something vaguely Norse is the go-to. That is all well and good as JoËlle Jones' art is fantastic but the writing simply doesn't measure up to the "Crank the Metal Past 11" visuals Jones is showcasing here. The story is just, well, thin and a bit of a mess. I had to switch my brain off a second time through to really get sufficient enjoyment out of it. Horror comics are all over the place as is but there are far better ones to be found (Severed or Crossed come to mind).
I was expecting to get sucked in entirely by this one and it just let me down. It has gore by the bucketload and lots of magic to be scene. I just wish some of it had been spared for Bunn's writing.
FINAL WORD: Helheim means "place of punishment". It was a bit of a slog to get through and I felt I was being punished for wanting a Viking horror series. JoËlle Jones' stellar art isn't enough to bring this book back from the narrative mire that Bunn drove it into. Disappointing.
Publisher: Oni Press -- Writer: Cullen Bunn -- Artist: JoËlle Jones, Nick Filardi -- Release Date: March 14th