Remember in the early days of Thor comics when “Tales of Asgard” meant an outing of fantasy based on Norse mythology and storybooks? Well, they all kept true to their target audience which was to give family entertainment and this means entertainment for the whole family and readers of all ages. Nowadays, a “Tale of Asgard” meant that it is a story that may be more realistic in terms of the time when and where the story takes place. This means that such tales would be portrayed in the manner that reflects the traditions, cultures and recorded practices since then.
Writer Michael Carey and artist Michael Perkins does make “Thor: Wolves of the North” a story not of the Norse god of thunder but rather the practices, the courage and the willingness to engage in combat of the Viking race (anyone want me to review something about Vikings?) “Wolves of the North” is a one-shot comic book and has more similarity to the traditional fantasy stories written by Robert E. Howard than those written by Stan Lee or Roy Thomas. Well, it isn’t exactly Walter Simonson but it can definitely stand on its own.
A village of the Viking tribe of Redhangir is being attacked by demonic orcs and “zombie-fied” warrior hordes for no reason at all. Its chief called Thorvald leads his men and engages the enemy; the proud chief seemed poised to win the day until a huge creature finally fells him. Now he names his daughter, Einar the new leader of the tribe, but it seems like the priests of the church of Hela deny her authority and pressures her to give a sacrifice to appease the death goddess. Einar, denies the authority of the priests and as if in answer to her proud warrior beliefs, a young Thor Odinson has descended from Asgard to fight alongside the Viking warriors. Now the battle is joined, but seems like Thor and his proud Viking warriors are vulnerable to betrayal from within….
“Wolves of the North” is a tale of Asgard, and is a story where magic reigns supreme and the Norse warrior gods often descend to aid the Northsmen in battle. The writing by Carey brings into exposition some of the recorded practices of the Vikings, they are proud, savage warrior-people whose laws are there more to instill order than to command respect to their gods. The Vikings seems to choose who they worship, and Carey also brings forth the idea that men do tend to manipulate using fear, superstition and intimidation. In the era of Vikings, it isn’t so much as what a leader can give his people or how he can lead them; it was more of setting an example and how a leader must die in battle to earn a place in Valhalla.
A war in Asgard means disorder on Earth, and so, being the prince of Asgard, Thor is sent to attack the hordes of Hela from the rear as a single force. This brings him to the area of Redhangir, and gives the reader a message that Thor is indeed the strongest of the gods, and one thunder god is the equal of a host of Asgard. Be aware though, that this is Thor as a young prince, he may be a little arrogant, proud, and definitely a much weaker version of himself, arguably in his 'teens' if such a thing applies to immortals (Thor grew more in power as he reached adulthood). The strategies in the comic come from the belief in magic and how sorcery can hurt even a god. I liked the manner which the comic portrayed a weakness and how a god can only be ‘anchored’ by a mere mortal in this reality. It does give the recent events in Thor more credibilty, as the reader is reminded that the thunder god is a being of magic and power.
The battles in “Wolves of the North” are more like unto swordplay than actually being a superhero battle. It has scenes of bloody gore and the battles have the use of magic. The comic is quite violent in its own right, and curiously the battle when Einar engages her enemies seem to be more savage than the struggles between Thor and Hela. (Hela is specially attractive in this issue). Not to say that the war wasn’t intense, but this comic was written to portray the Northsman, how their savagery is also their sense of pride and how their pride is the symbol of their honor. The art by Michael Perkins and the colors by Dan Brown looked pretty gritty and filled with attitude. This is not your usual portrayal of Thor as a superhero, but the mighty Thor as a warrior god. Remember an angered Thor threatened to destroy the U.S. with floods, lightning and the weather if the government refused to refrain from trying to enforce the superhuman registry act to him after "Civil War". Thor is not a super-hero but a warrior after all, one would do well to remember this.
I suppose the one complaint I do have for this one shot comic is that it was a little too short. It had a good premise but it was a little too underdeveloped in some areas. I know it was meant as a short story of a “tale of Asgard”, but it didn’t reach a homerun with me. I thought the battle with Hela should’ve been longer and while I know where it was coming from, some parts did feel rushed. “Wolves of the North” is a story that portrays a savage time when the belief on a warrior god, the practice of sorcery and the need to stand proud proves invaluable. As Einar has proclaimed; she is a scion of chiefs and a warrior born, Vikings do not approach their gods on their knees, but they choose their own manner of worship….I found this too true, much to the joy of Thor and his father Odin.
A tale of war, and how the gods can affect the lives of men as well as how mortals can affect men. More of a tale of savagery and realistic portrayal of magic and superstition. Not your typical Thor comic, more of Thor as a warrior god than Thor the member of the Avengers. A good "Tale of Gods and Men"... see full review here.