We’re back with another special edition of Picks of the Trade and our first continuation of a series. Now, Picks of the Trade, at its core, is about trades and collections that stand out. If you look at some of the ones that have been covered, it’s a hell of a good bunch of books if I do say so myself—and I do.
So let’s talk Vinland Saga, shall we? Book Two was released on January 21st and boasts over 400 pages for the very reasonable price of $19.99 USD. Disregarding everything I’m about to say about this volume and this series, the price alone makes it worth picking this up, not to mention that publisher Kodansha Comics, who I believe is a division and/or partners with Random House, does a fantastic job with the hardcover treatment.
Now, I’m admittedly a complete Manga noob and have recently learned a few things from our very own Nick Rowe who is, by all rights, our resident Manga expert. I was under the assumption that writer/artist Makoto Yukimura did it all between these two beautiful hard covers but apparently that’s not necessarily true. In the world of Manga and in order to produce as much as they do as fast as they do, creators hire “assistants” to help them with inks and speed lines and finishing touches, etc. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear that they get credit anywhere in book, which might explain why I had no idea, so whenever I talk about the art in this book remember that some of that praise goes to these faceless assistants—not filthy assistants—that Yukimura more than likely hired to help him with this book.
That aside, the art! Seriously, I think it’s fair to say that Book One had some great art and that it was a great starting point with some fantastic battle scenes, but Book Two tops it in almost every way. Whether Yukimura was just more comfortable with the characters and setting, or this was just a larger scale book, the art was just on another level. The fight scenes are faster, the detail seems to be greater, and the characters are so consistent you almost forget that each one has to be drawn. Everything about this book’s art just demands your attention, and even though the 400+ pages seem to speed by you can’t help but stop and admire each panel.
So the art is off the scale, if you didn’t already get that from that bunch of words above, but the writing is right up there as well. The story is very well planned out and executed by Yukimura. All the little pieces of the much larger picture get their moments and spots; Thorfinn continues to be one crazy, lethal S.O.B hellbent on vengeance, Askeladd continues to be sneaky and devious and clearly out for his own gain while we also get to meet characters like Thorkell who can only be described as a huge, freakishly strong turncoat who just wants to fight, kill and end up in Valhalla. Sure, we meet other people like Prince Canute who everybody refers to as “Prince” and that he’s a “he” but… I’m just not convinced.
Being more of a fan of “regular” comics makes reading Manga, particularly this one, not only a challenge because of the way it’s read but it’s also really exciting and a nice change of pace. You don’t get this kind of movement and, for the most part, detail in comics on this side of the world because the monthly schedules are just too grueling. This, of course, is a generalization and I’m sure there are examples of similar quality and detail from this side of the world. Regardless, it’s nice to step out of the comfort zone and check out something like this. Even with my love of all things Viking aside, this is just a great, brutal, sometimes funny book that’s very loosely based off the history of England.
Thankfully for me and you if you’re reading along at home, the next two books are due out in April and July respectively. I don’t know where this is going or how it’s going to end—as a matter of fact, it still might be ongoing if I’m not mistaken—but I’m damn sure hooked and I will be there every step of the way. This is a fantastic collection that gives you more than your money’s worth and it’s not like you have to go out and buy six of these to catch up. More are coming, you can pace yourself! If you’ve never read any Manga before but you can appreciate great craftsmanship and storytelling, check this out and remember to read from right to left.