Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spirou and the heirs

Serialized in "the Spirou magazine" in 1951, "Spirou and the heirs" was Andre Franquin's second major album working on the series. Unlike the title page of "the Wizard of Culdesac", the 1952 "Dupuis" published collected edition lists no creative assists in the credits. This is only the first indication that the writer/artist's effort feels much closer to his later works than even the first, lucid album.

It takes a very brave artist to proceed with the series by making next to no reference to the perfect long-form debut symbolized by the addition of Culdesac to the mythos. And yet, with "Spirou and the heirs" Franquin feels almost giddy in getting to enjoy the creative freedom all by himself. On the surface, the creator starts off seemingly naively, by revisiting the idea of Fantasio coming to the inheritance of the rich, previously unmentioned, cousin. By returning to the basic scenario of one of his first collaborations with Jije, Franquin doesn't satisfy himself with substituting the lead protagonist in charge of receiving the eponymous will and all the complications that go with it. The writer/artist uses this simple trope to wrap around three complete episodes, all spotlighting a major part of his creative inspirations.

The overarching plot of Fantasio and his cousin Zantafio competing to fulfill the three obligations needed to come into possession of the secret inheritance is therefore little more than a framing device that houses three distinctive chapters. Traditionally, the first one settles around Fantasio fixing to create a new invention, that is for once called for. This part of the plot begins as a fast paced physical comedy that must have been a delight to read in serial form. By the time the scheming cousin Zantafio rears his head in, Franquin is ready to start showing off his talent for drawing needlessly complicated machinery with very little practical purpose that has become the basis for most gags in his later "Gaston" series. This first part of the book actually peaks right before the big finish, with a series of hilariously over the top gags in the solicitor's house.

Thus, the final score on who gets to lead in the overall challenge feels tacked on and overlong, serving the wider plot that is largely superfluous. Interestingly, in the closing pages of this segment a rare metafictional bit occurs, bringing with it the only substantial reference to "the Wizard of Culdesac". And while it's easy to speculate on the inclusion of the arbitrary sequence, perhaps it's best to treat it as an advertisement for the collected edition of the preceding adventure. Despite the later "Gaston" spin-off being a place for the constant in jokes involving the publisher's office politics, Franquin sticks with the adventure storyline throughout "the Spirou and the heirs".

Yet, for all the fantastic contraptions Franquin comes up with as a running commentary on the continuing industrialization of the mid 20th century, there is no doubt that his inspiration comes from the cars. And while some of the artist's previous panels could be accused of having little in the way of atmospheric backgrounds, it all becomes next to irrelevant as the middle chapter comes speeding. Once again, the comic makes way for a sports event, that best encapsulates the challenge of the framing story. Even more, Franquin is so entranced by the prospect of depicting a formula race that he lends it by far the most space in the book, depicting in detail all of it's stages and ancillary events.

As for the story logic behind it, it's so childlike and naive that it defies criticism. Despite the idea of Fantasio and Zantafio receiving some training, it's best that the writer chose to spend as little time as he did on explaining how the two of them actually ended up in such a high end race. Once again, the artist falls back on using Golden Age criminals to set the plot in motion, and thankfully, he keeps it around to provide motion during the long racing sequence. Because, strangely, the all important track ends up feeling intensely decompressed, and actively in need of the subplot starring Spirou and Spip to inject energy in it.

On the other hand, technically, Franquin's craft is impressive, especially considering when it was produced. The cars' physical models, the sensation of movement and the intensity of the race is all depicted peerlessly, as if the artist was coming to the book fully educated on the subject. Of course, being a fan of auto sports doesn't explain the astounding layouts presented in "Spirou and the heirs", particularly considering that they hardly have much of a precedent in the comic book art before him. That Franquin more or less devised all of this movement himself is the album's definite high point art-wise.

Nonetheless, the race and the many machinations that erupt around it, would have benefited from some focusing and streamlining. Due to the rapid inclusion of seemingly every possible trope set around the race, the event loses a lot of momentum. It's almost certain that this was nowhere near a problem when originally serialized, but it definitely detracts from the work as a whole when sampled all in one reading. The problem can be summed up in the way the whole sequence ends, with Spirou and Fantasio riding an antique automobile, for no purpose than to provide Franquin to draw one. Interestingly, the crucial plot point tying the whole thing with the struggle for inheritance is dealt with in a single page, so as to propel the story forward and reignite the sense of rivalry between cousins.

Still, showing that Franquin indulging in his whims is creatively a very rewarding experience, is once again clear with the lest leg of Spirou and Fantasio's journey. After all, he is the creator that almost solely propelled them into one of the most popular Franco Belgian characters, and by taking them to the Palmobian jungle, he was preparing to make his mark that much more permanent. In fact, by presenting a fictional South American republic as a stand-in, Franquin unleashes some of his funniest moments right on the first couple of pages. The charming satire is quickly abandoned for a seemingly generic jungle hunt though, which can certainly be excused considering the animal involved.

Because, no matter the legal status of the character following the ending of Franquin's run on the title, Marsupilami has achieved an enormous and enduring popularity, and it all stems from a single plot strand of "Spirou and the heirs". Even in his original appearance, the weird monkey-like creature completely overshadows the protagonists. Of course, their trying to capture it results in a series of gags, but it's clear throughout that Franquin is absolutely fascinated by his new creation, and wants nothing more but to showcase its weird habits and abilities.

It's difficult to describe Marsupilami or even articulate what lead to his charm, but it's certain that somewhere amid it's gruff and unlikely ways lies a very endearing character. In any event, Franquin ended up being much more taken by his own creation than Spip, the squirrel that Spirou's original creator Rob-Vel came up with. It cannot be overstated that Marsupilami is an instantly memorable comic book character, and one that sticks in mind much more than Franquin's plots. On the other hand, his subsequent inclusion in the series' constant supporting cast has certainly lead the title far away from the subjective reality of the series, marking a clear line that delineates the Marcinelle comic book style. Simply put, depicting Marsupilami is as far away from drawing from life as the Smurfs are from "Tintin" and the more realistic ligne claire style.

Franquin must have been fully aware of the potential impact of his creation, as he quickly wraps up the last chapter of the adventure, and in turn the whole plot involving the inheritance. The unceremonious ending is valiantly hidden behind Zantafio's emotional breakdown, and the succeeding morale of the story, as imparted by the solicitor. After all the troubles, the ending feels hugely anti-climatic, and substitutes the actual pay off for shallow philosophy, seemingly thought up at the last moment. Still, this was arguably the only possible ending of a framing story that was from the start deceptively simple and unconvincing.

Yet again, the characters have ended their adventure with a very formidable reward indeed. The addition of Marsupilami to the cast, coupled with "the Wizard"'s setting of Culdesac have proven to be the chief elements that have made Golden Age characters Spirou and Fantasio such an enduring part of the Franco Belgian comic book scene. The only other, final major addition to the series was the introduction of a permanent villain, which was Franquin's final contribution to the mythos, after a long slew of albums.

Still, Franquin's departure as a way of maturing to different kinds of comics was still ways off in 1952, as the writer/artist was preparing to further integrate his new character in the world of Spirou, as set up by Rob-Vel and Jije before him.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Vengeance of the Moon Knight #1-6 "Shock and awe"

With the release of it's sixth issue, "Vengeance of the Moon Knight" has completed it's first story arc by Gregg Hurwitz and Jerome Opena tasked to rejuvenate the property for Marvel. Yet, despite the new title and renumbering, their take follows on Moon Knight's previous Marvel knights effort, as defined by Charlie Huston and David Finch. Apparently, despite the cancellation of the previous volume, at the time helmed by Mike Benson, the company has thought that bringing solid mid-list creators and tying the story into the ongoing status quo of the Marvel universe was enough to make for a healthy long run. The reasoning was that a slight change in direction would help ease the new readers, familiar with the overall Dark Reign direction, into sampling "Vengeance of the Moon Knight" and continuing with it.

By and large, this methodology meant slowly reintroducing the character to the familiar New York milieu, the reader would be treated to the of appearances of Norman Osborn and the Hood, who would slowly shift in the background as the title character's supporting cast takes larger prominence. In fact, there is a precedent for Osborn's controlling agenda contrasting with Moon Knight's vigilante status, as established in the previous volume.

The chief problem with the "Vengeance of the Moon Knight" is that it never honestly tries to push for a new audience, with the sales figures already betraying a return to the level of the previous incarnation's final months in the North American direct market.

This largely stems from the conservatism of the editorial. Moon Knight has so far followed the model of "Ghost Rider" and "Immortal Iron Fist" before it, with the company recognizing the critical acclaim won by the revamp of the long neglected properties by subsequently instructing the successive creative teams to immediately pick up on the plot threads and the same general approach. The fact that only Moon Knight was granted a new ongoing series, should have signaled the company to let Hurwitz and Opena have a much broader creative freedom, while the comics buying public still recognizes the property as one in which they will invest even if Marvel's biggest name creators aren't helming the relaunch.

In effect, this has created a title with it's heart in the right place, and a logical continuation from the point of continuity, while forgetting to imbue it with any sort of new take beyond Huston's, now four year old, reconceptualization. The thrust of Greg Hurwitz's take stems from the fact that this time Moon Knight is changing to be a better, more professional superhero, while struggling to keep his more psychotic and anti-social tendencies at bay. Still, all this is by and large very similar to Charlie Huston's version of the character, as defined by the continuing presence of Moon Knight's God Khonshu as a cartoon character, constantly urging the tormented hero to bloodletting.

Unexpectedly, most of the somewhat more light-hearted approach takes cues from Jeph Loeb's "Hulk" run, specifically the issues guest-starring Moon Knight and Sentry. The fact that both character were created without even the attempt to hide their similarities to Batman and Superman actually informs the relaunch in an unexpectedly big way, plot-wise. Seeing Sentry checking in on Moon Knight might appear as a typical Dark Reign tie-in sequence, but the creators treat it as something bigger than a token guest appearance. There is a sense that Sentry could actually continue to be a part of their run on the character, particularly considering that the accentuating the more heroic and Batman-like side of the character echoes throughout the rest of the relaunch. This is particularly obvious considering that most of the middle section of the story arc revolves around the escape from the lunatic asylum orchestrated by Marvel's own Scarecrow, a long standing Ghost Rider villain. Evidently, Marvel is not merely using all these callbacks to DC icon out of a simple sense of fun, but is actually aiming to establish some of the title's appeal as their own version of Batman, in a way not too dissimilar to the original "Squadron Supreme" concept.

Naturally, what follows suit is that the more personal aspect of Moon Knight's fight, as established in the original Moench/Sienkiewicz run, quickly rears it's head back in, as the character's nemesis, Raoul Bushman, literally gets ressurected as the series' chief villain. Despite Hurwitz's efforts to present Bushman as Moon Knight's Joker, and a continuing reminder of what he could be (and in fact already has been in times of his more violent phases), a broader analyses reveals a much simpler motive for his inclusion, beyond the game of homaging Batman.

Basically, Hurwitz and Marvel editorial have once again recognized the value in Charlie Huston's approach to the series, having appropriated a notable aspect of it for "Vengeance of the Moon Knight". The problem is that Huston dealt with both revisiting Moon Knight's origin and the definite confrontation with Bushman in establishing his first arc, and has since taken the character in a different direction. And while confronting the descendants of the organization that hired him in his original appearance in "Werewolf by night", and his own sidekick from the 1990s Chuck Dixon run on the title, could hardly be considered original, at least Huston and Finch updated the character and his operation for the current audience. And even then, the late 70-ies, early 80-ies anti-hero had a hard time keeping an audience, leading to crossover tie-ins, and Marvel eventually deciding to continue with less popular creative teams. All of his has brought "Vengeance of the Moon Knight" to where it now stands, as a paired down action book, trying it's hardest to distill the most commercial of it's previous elements and combine them with Batman tropes hoping to achieve a favorable reaction from the audience.

Realizing the genre cocktail as a fast paced adventure naturally falls on Jerome Opena's shoulders. In presenting the loud return of Moon Knight, on the surface the artist sticks with a typical Marvel style, using the first issue to attract readers to the detailed look of the company's perpetually late 70-ies crime plagued New York. Opena tries to win new readers by featuring Manhattan in daylight, filled with Dark Avengers billboards and a general fully detailed superhero art approach, that naturally starts to loosen up once the deadlines start catching up with him. Yet, despite the series returning halfway to the character's natural conveniently obscured nocturnal setting, the focus on the figure work in action still preserves the artist's greatest strengths.

Most impressively, Opena has a very firm grasp on Moon Knight's physique. And while the character remains slightly underdeveloped and generic when out of costume (matching his current unclear secret identity status), the schyzophrenic anti-hero has a very well defined look when fully armored. It is exactly when Moon Knight tries his best to be the hero, without getting caught up on the burdens of his past, that Opena's artwork shines the most, featuring a very detailed combat suit that nonetheless looks practical and realistic. The design itself would be enough to differentiate this iteration of the suit from all the others, heavily influenced by Sienkiewicz's take, focusing on the ghost-like aspect of Moon Knight's bloated cape. Opena goes even further, providing a very clear and knowing look on the characters' anatomy, driving firmly the supposed realism behind the concept of an urban vigilante. Just seeing the way the artist twist Moon Knight's spine in omvement is a testament to his impressive knowledge of figure work in action.

Unfortunately, despite the constant explosive violence, the artist doesn't get much of a chance to showcase his strengths as a storyteller. The short breaks provided for bringing some atmosphere to the ghost town of Charlie Hustion's updates to the Batman-inspired Moench concepts never amounted to something much more than checking in with the minutiae of Moon Knight's world, as established four years ago. The protagonist is certainly not a natural conversationalist, but that still doesn't excuse Hurtwitz's approach, which basically bundles up all of these quieter pieces to drive home the same point.

Everyone seems all too eager to chime in on how unlikely it is for Moon Knight to change, something that was already established in his conversations with Khnonshu in the character's rare lone moments. In fact, the only subtlety to be found on the pages of aptly named "Shock and awe" is in the mechanical way in which his longstanding on/off relationship with Marlene rekindles, and that is surely not a good example of the realistic portrayal of a long suffering partner's feelings. Namely, the statuesque blonde archeologist is just another piece of editorial mandate, employed in order to present the most potent version of the Moon Knight concept, in a misguided belief that it will be both accessible and inviting to the new fans, already familiar with the rival publisher's Dark knight.

Speaking of the creator's vision, it's severely underdeveloped. This is best seen in the subplot involving Crawley, Moon Knight's longtime associate. Namely, the eloquent homeless man is taken from his usual alcohol driven seclusion and featured in an over the top turn of events that leads to a sudden change in his behavior, played with all of the seriousness of a cartoon. And while this unexpected development provides a diversion from the horrors of Moon Knight fighting lobotomized mental patients, it actually points out to the creators' willingness to acknowledge their own take on the Moon Knight concepts. Unfortunately, this rare bit of satire sticks out as hurried and uncertain in what can be considered a much more familiar humor scenes featuring Spider-Man commenting on his fellow superhero, or even the Huston-inspired black humor associated with Khonshu.

Even taking into account that this is a fast paced action book first and foremost, at moments Hurwitz and Opena fail to synchronize, making for at least a couple of very confusion action set pieces. Still, this failing is much more tolerable when one takes into account the relentless speed with which the movement carries forward, and the constant need to shift perspectives in order to make the fight scenes stay fresh and exciting. Unfortunately, any kind of synergy exhibited by the writer and artist is already being dismantled, with Opena leaving the title for the duration. This comes to no surprise considering that he has already attributed to the book's lateness, being yet another artist to prove he cannot work under the impossible deadlines of a monthly superhero comic book.

The solicitations report that Hurwitz's next storyline featured Deadpool, whose profile has unexpectedly being raised by the "X-Men origins: Wolverine" movie in such a significant way that the character now has his own line of titles, ensuring that every week there is a Deadpool book on the stands. And while another of his rounds guest starring in another Marvel title is unlikely to significantly profit "Vengeance of the Moon Knight", it could potentially provide for some hurried juxtaposition between the juvenile violence that is sure to abound. And while it certainly cannot be said that the crossovers have benefited the previous incarnation of the title in the long run, Hurwitz is quick to issue that a more serious storyline is to debut right after. Unfortunately, the current sales reports strongly suggest that it may just turn out to be the title's last, with the return of Jerome Opena that much more likely to happen as a penciller fronting the launch of another title. If this was to happen, Hurwitz will most likely use it to wrap up the elements of his run, that seems troubled from the very start.

Perhaps, in the long run, it might be the best if Marvel was to leave the property be for as long as it take until they finally come up with a new approach that has a better chance of appealing to an audience, that is already weary of all but the most elaborate Batman titles.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Viking 1-5

"Viking" is the ongoing commitment by writer Ivan Brandon and artist Nic Klein, published by Image comics, that has just completed it's first "season". In the world of creator owned comics, such a term always promises a hopeful return of the series, following a new marketing approach. In any event, the bi-monthly offering has certainly come to some sort of conclusion of it's first tale, although one that is much more episodic than the TV-inspired language would seem to imply.

As a writer, Ivan Brandon has been the type of the creative who is very patient in breaking through in the American comics industry. His career path has so far included a wide birth of mini-series, and even the occasional superhero tie-in project at DC and Marvel. When developing "Viking", he was coming up with the idea of a somewhat more complex work. Yet, finding an artist willing to expose his work to the audience for no up-front pay is always a tricky proposition. Still, Brandon was insistent to leave his mark on the industry that is notoriously hard for the writers to get regular work in.

Thankfully, Nic Klein agreed to develop his concepts, and in the long process of publishing the first issue of the series the artist's involvement has considerably increased. By the time Image was ready to solicit the series, Klein was already listed as a co-creator, indicative of the creative team's labor of love being a rare collaboration in the true sense of the word.

Image's marketing on the other hand, was a different matter altogether. "Viking" was presented as a publication coming on the heels of Vertigo's "Northlanders", but with a noir twist to it. This is consistent with the creator's initial pitch of the series to DC's imprint, and indeed, if one is to approximate the line as "HBO of comics", "Viking" could have been seen as a potential addition. It's just that selling a period piece with such a strong emphasis on the modern approximations seemed to sell the project short. The final product is obviously a detailed and much labored upon piece, and Image has continued to push the property, with the black and white reprint in the back of a "Walking dead" issue, the publisher's strongest current title. It's just that the complete experience is one that differs greatly from the presentation.

Brandon and Klein have worked hard to make their debut impressionable, and it's certainly a very handsome package. For a start, the over sized pages exploit the artist's endless talent at emotion, and the writer behind him keeps constantly alert at delivering a tense and accessible story. It's character-oriented focus helps ease the reader into experiencing events taking place a thousand years ago without any kind of distance and pandering specifically to the history enthusiasts. In effect, focusing on the illiterate robbers helps shield the book from getting lost in the obscure references and mythology, and presenting a stereotypical take on the era in the best possible way.

The reader is invited right away to get to know the book's central characters, brothers Finn and Egil through their humble beginnings as thrill-seeking bloodthirsty plunderers. Following the action, these no-nonsense hardy men are shown with the rest of their family, leading to another tragedy that gets them to change their modus operandi.

The harsh world they operate in doesn't shy away from the violent confrontations as regular answers for any and all dispute, but soon enough, the brothers start getting to know the British locale. Getting an unlikely ally, they are lead to a confrontation with a "king", following which the first "season" of the book ends, with all of the leads acquainted with each other, and a series of conflicts is set to boil, some sooner rather than later.

Overall, "Viking" leaves a very competent impression, from start to finish. First and foremost, Brandon's stout characters are definitely portrayed as men hailing from a more brutal time, but they stop short of ravaging maniacs. In fact, the most interesting subplot hails from one of the brothers facing that very same dilemma, without a sudden complete change of the heart that is common in some of the faster paced comics. Which still leaves the story's first "season" as a piece that does a lot of work at introducing the cast in a way that puts them through quite an ordeal.

Individually, each of these characters is instantly recognizable, playing a distinctive archetype for great effect. When it comes to the supporting cast, the reader is quickly introduced to some of the more level headed players, like the brother's grandfather Ozur, or king Bram the Quiet who has an equally stern daughter in Annikki. Even then, each of these differs in their wisdom and education, with a personal flair all their own, albeit still remaining with some of the vikings' natural ferocity underneath. It goes without saying that Klein's strong designs further enforce their standing out as more then the writer's mouthpieces, which is readily apparent when it comes to Gylfi and Aki, king Bram's servants introduced as bit players. These similarly designed characters could easily have become indistinguishable in lesser creators' hands, but creators once again manage to devote enough care and effort into it that it ends up almost mirroring the duality established in their lead protagonists.

It's interesting to see how Brandon approaches the plot in such a heavily character-oriented book. The key to "Viking"'s story seems to be in misdirection - the reader is regularly treated with a lot of savage dynamics cutting a swath through a mass of characters that serves a double role. As mentioned, it serves as a continuous reminder of the ferocity of these men of dark ages, and certainly helps keep the pacing brisk and dynamic. But, when a better look is paid to these blood baths, it's clear that only one person of importance actually dies in them, which forms the heart of the book. Unfortunately, by getting to the end of the fifth issue, this becomes much more apparent and it actually serves to undermine the story's subjective reality.

It is as if the creators have attached themselves too much to these characters that make up a bleak and savage world of one thousand years ago, and have already started to look at their fates in terms of adjoining story arcs. There is no other excuse for seeing love burst out on fast-forward in the middle of a very tense situation where a more animal sexuality would have been much more believable. Unfortunately, the "season finale" really hurts the book in that it tries to set up and foreshadow the title's eventual direction, but does it in a way that feels very hurried and actively challenges the suspension of disbelief. It's unlikely that a prospective reader will see such familiar plot devices as the mercy shown in a very dangerous situation as an act of wisdom on the part of the character, after being regularly shown that these are the people who behead each other on a whim, for even the smallest of insults. Nor is there any real fear for the fate of a protagonist left to his wounds, which serves as the cliffhanger. Having seen the man doing much more than simply standing up for a large part of the issue surely makes his predicament a temporary one.

Yet, these are all very small hindrances that have resulted from nothing less than the creators' love for the setting they've established and put dozens of working hours into. For instance, Brandon's subtlety with characterization and the completely accessible world of yesterday he presents the readers with are surely the result a detailed layout that was revised during the long time leading up to "Viking"'s eventual publication. Still, the enthusiasm and sheer effort that makes the book stand out are clear even to the untrained eye as soon as they see Nic Klein's work.

It cannot be overstated how misleading the comic book covers can be, as the publishers are aware that even the most rushed and amateurish work is more likely to be sampled by the readers if it's hidden under a striking composition. These commissions have been part and parcel of comics for such a long time, that hardly anyone expects any more to see interior art that matches the skill and detail synonymous with classical craftsmen like Hal ("Prince Valiant") Foster and Alex ("Flash Gordon") Raymond, especially on an up and coming book. This is why seeing that Nic Klein applying the same approach used for illustrating his covers to all his interior art makes "Viking" stand out across the entire Image line.

The artist's style can best be described as layered, seeing as how he is in charge with both pencils, inks and colors of the story. Yet, for all the control his training brings him, he still opts for a very fluid, emotive work, where a lot of his peers would simply opt to render the whole setting with a strong unifying technique.

Klein builds up to the full effect starting with the colors, that set up an atmosphere of earthly browns and bright reds that give the medieval ages a primal, almost primitive quality. From there, he lets the emotional quality of the scene to decide on the amount of details employed, which is a very interesting technique. He usually starts with a fully painted establishing shot, then proceeds to spotlight different panels in the style he feels benefits them the most. This usually leads to most of the conversations being composed of regular pencil drawings, that still betray an expressive hand over the realistic layouts. Even then, the backgrounds serve to depict the artist's energy constantly building up, changing from fully realized surroundings to dots, as he prepares to single out a panel. Thus, amid the emotive, almost scratchy artwork, an emotive highpoint changes the color and often the texture of the whole image, leading to a fully painted detail, that is often as quickly abandoned as it was singled out.

This all contributes to a uniquely fluid and interesting experience that is "Viking". It is as if the artist is purposefully exploiting the relatively more traditional scripting of his writer to break out the formalistic experimentation. The cumulative effect is striking, as the book actively fights for the reader's attention and rewards it every step of the way. It's rare that such a sense of identity and unifying vision is experienced in a book so early in it's run, as even the most ambitious titles seldom fare so adequate with lesser known creators. The amount of care and professionalism that comes from every page is telling, as Brandon and Klein really value their collaboration and the reader that is paying for it.

Their comic is never treated as a half-hearted attempt to try and string some ideas together, but a fully formed brand that is as important as TV show with high production values. Seeing as how their comic is currently "in between seasons", it would be a real shame if the creators decided on leaving the project because of the lack of financial rewards. This is a very real concern, as clearly both Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein are more than ready to produce the kind of work that would make them invaluable to superhero publishers.

Perhaps the real problem that still faces the eventual "Viking" trade paperback is the marketing that introduced the book to the readers in the first place. It would seem that Image have found it important to stress out how the book is a "noir" piece dressed up in the medieval imagery, which is a very problematic decision. It gambles on the reader-friendly feeling of the book, but in turn undersells it as so much gimmick comics. In turn, the cumulative effect may well be that the basic concept appeals to the fans of "Samurai detective", and not the HBO shows that inspired it, such as "Rome" and "Deadwood".

In the best possible outcome, a broader audience would eventually discover "Viking" in it's collected form and enable it's continued existence as an ongoing series that it's clearly set up to be. Realistically, this is very much in doubt, as new genre comics face an uphill battle in a biased marketplace that is traditionally resistant to new properties. It's clear that the creators have no part in this strategy, as they have already debuted with high quality work for no upfront pay, which is only to be commendable. Perhaps a stronger previous presence in the superhero medium would have help them attract more eyes on their creator-owned work, but this has rarely proven to be deciding factor in the continuing success of an independent ongoing series. In today's market, it might well be that marketing is the deciding factor when it comes to enticing retailers to order a new title. And unfortunately, unless Image finds a way to attract a broader mainstream audience, it's highly unlikely that a new series will return for another "season" of bi-monthly comic books that have awarded their creators with little besides a strong portfolio to take to Marvel and DC.