Written by: Brian Wood
Art by: Garry Brown
Publisher: Image Comics
Black Road is a comic I’m excited to see back, and the fact that it reminds me of this song is only partially to blame. Brian Wood knows his way around a story and a character, and man was the first arc a wonder in desolation, beautiful vistas, and the harrowing and bloody conquest of Christian missionaries to Norway.
But #5 ended with a betrayal, and #6 picks up…in a strange spot. Julia is gone and replaced with Kitta, the blacksmith from issue #1. Now, I like Kitta as a violent, headstrong female protagonist, but she really changes the tone up. She talks more than Julia, and she prompts Magnus to talk more too. What was a desolate and very silent comic for its first five issues now has a lot of words covering its art, and I guess I’m not a fan of the change.
They aren’t even bad words, either. They’re perfectly serviceable words! Brain Wood isn’t letting us down in that respect.
However, I don’t think the Black Road is literal anymore, and that is a letdown. Remember, Magnus was escorting Julia across the most nightmarish road in the country, one where the weather was just as dangerous as the vagabonds that travel it. Julia betrayed Magnus, but—at least from my perspective—there was still a lot of road to cross. I think #6 sees us at the end of that road.
Or at least, Magnus and Kitta have camped themselves in front of a Christian fort filled with Christian guards. Julia seems to be in there too, since they’re both out for revenge at this point.
The Black Road is no longer the place but the quest, because with the end of one journey sees the start of another: Taking down this Christian fort and stopping the missionary conquest.
As a plot, I don’t hate it, but I also don’t know how well it fits with the first arc. I’d pen the first five issues of Black Road as historical fiction, but issue 6 just feels like fiction fiction. Two Vikings off to take down an army? Hell yes I can dig it, but man, this is a departure. Magnus seemed somewhat enamored (or at least intrigued) by Christianity in the first issue. This feels like a forced character change, even if Julia’s betrayal makes it a believable one.
Thankfully, the artwork is still as amazing as ever. There’s plenty of vistas to behold, and though the few we get aren’t cold, they’re still desolate and depressing. That hasn’t left. The fights are also still no-bullshit affairs with plenty of blood.
I guess I really don’t know what to make of this issue. Like the others, it’s doing what it wants to do very well, and as far as plot goes, I’m game. I certainly don’t know where this story is heading, and that’s always a nice bonus. However, I can’t shake the fact that this feels like a pretty big shift from the first five issues. I miss the silence and the cold.