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August 10, 2017

Image Comics Reviews: Black Road: Vol 1 – The Holy North

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Written by: Eric
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Black Road: Vol. 1 – The Holy North
Publisher:  Image Comics
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist(s): Garry Brown & Dave McCaig
Cover: Gary Brown

In 1000 A.D. the pagan lands of the Vikings are undergoing Christian religious conversion.  It’s left the lands and it’s people living in a state of deep suffering and perpetual war as village after village succumbs to control of the christian church.  Magus The Black is a lonely viking warrior, living out his existence on the fringes of society and doing “Fixer” jobs for the church.  The Black Road is a path built of misery, sorrow, blood, bile and death.  When Magus is approached with an escort mission along the Black Road that results in the death of the local Cardinal, he’s thrust into an intrigue that will likely destroy him.

Brian Wood’s character Magus The Black is a bit of an enigma.  His inner dialogue would lead you to believe that he’s isolated himself from the world, simply existing and surviving but his dialogue with those walking the road with him expresses a longing for companionship.  He’s also not a superman.  Skilled as he may be, it is his flaws that drive the story.  Wood builds Magus’s stoic warrior but doesn’t hesitate to break him down with defeat, betrayal and uncertainty and it’s his resilience that bonds you to his character.

Black Road Vol. 1 is gritty and bleak.  It is a land where happiness doesn’t seem to exist and thanks to the art of Brown and McCaig you as the reader are assaulted with the hopelessness of this world.  People are bathed in oil and burned for their rejection of Christianity, those forced to live on the fringes to avoid it are depicted as starved, scrawny and emaciated.  The journey along the road is shown in muted blue coloring which contrasts against the atrocities of the warm orange colors of cleansing fire and red of flowing blood.

Black Road was an interesting find.  I came across this book completely by chance and was drawn in by the cover art of Garry Brown and was enamored by the character of Magus Black. I have to say that I believe that Black Road is made for reading as a collection.  The breaks between events that denote the ends of individual issues can get annoying as some parts of the story are told out of sequence or through flashbacks.  It’s not jarring or confusing by any means but when one part of the story breaks on a cliffhanger, and the next starts with a flashback instead of a resolution it can get frustrating.  However, I have to say that the pacing of this book is really consistent.  At no time did I feel like Wood was rushing to reach a conclusion or that a flashback dragged on too long.  The flashbacks work seamlessly to link Magus’ past with his current situation and always seem relevant.

This story is NOT for young children.  Black Road depicts in vivid detail, murder, dismemberment,  immolation and genitalia.  It is also not for someone who is easily offended by criticism of Christianity.  While I won’t commit to saying that Wood is making any statements about the impact of Christianity upon the Vikings, the religion itself seems to be the underlying villain of this story.  If you can get past all that Black Road is a really cool story with amazing artwork.  If i’m honest, this book might not work without the visuals of Brown and McCaig.  I love the inner dialogue of Magus but find that I care more about the world building within that dialogue and the visuals of what the world looks like over the interactions with the characters.  Some of the intrigue introduced that keeps Magus moving seems unnecessary.  However, it may serve in the long run that it all culminates into an awesome conclusion so I’ll withhold judgement on that as I plan to continue to follow the journey of Magus The Black.

Eric Snell
esnell@comicattack.net

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One Comment


  1. Iron_Matt

    You cover some pretty cool books! I started Wood’s Aliens Defiance run because of you guys so I’ll give this one a shot too!



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