I noticed a common feature in the comics I was reading this week, a feature that made them all compelling as stories: the role of the underdog pitted against overwhelming odds. Seeing the psychological reactions of the characters was an important part of the ride, but excellent artwork, particularly in executing fight scenes, left me more than impressed with each one. HELHEIM #1 (out March 6th), TRIGGER GIRL 6 (out March 13th), and SLEDGE-HAMMER 44 (out March 13th) strike a fluid balance between characterization and action, always a kind of brass ring for comics creation, though sometimes a little difficult for readers to come by.
[Spoilers for HELHEIM #1, TRIGGER GIRL 6, and SLEDGE-HAMMER 44 #1 below]
HELHEIM, from Oni Press, kicks off a new series, and so has a great deal of storytelling to accomplish in a single issue. It does this with axes, axes, and more axes. Though it’s true there are plenty of axes, there’s also a lot more to HELHEIM, a tale “of the North” featuring what I’ll assume from the title are Vikings. Joelle Jones (FABLES) illustrates the issue, and her style is not only eye-catching but moody. Her characters in profile resemble figures from Viking-age artifacts but also have an angularity to their movement that really establishes the world of HELHEIM. I mentioned fight-scenes. These are equally unique and captivating. Though pseudo-medieval fight scenes are common enough in comics to keep you from really paying attention to the detail of their rendering, Jones breaks down that familiarity through unique panel layouts, occasionally rounded to depict landscape or full-page with overlaid panels to create emphasis. If she impresses with her Vikings, she’s even more at home with her artwork conjuring the undead, which sets up the forthcoming themes of the series well. There’s a kind of epic weight to some of her panels that simply stays with you, a sign of excellent art.