Brides of Helheim #1 introduces us to Sigrid. Sigrid is looking to have an evil spirit slain and does not seem to grasp the scale of the land she is in.
MAGIC AND SCALE
Cullen Bunn dips his toe back into the world of Norse mythology and his 2013 series Helheim with Brides of Helheim #1. This first issue is great, though could have used a touch more exposition. Readers meet protagonist Sigrid and her traveling companion Brand on the first page. They have come to Helheim with a very specific purpose – they are seeking out a man called Rikard – one who cannot rest, but serves Maiden, Mother and Crone.
Sigrid is in every way the woman in charge of this quest and as she and Brand drag a dead body through the panels of Brides of Helheim #1 Bunn skillfully leads his readers to wonder just how far this spritely, blonde Viking lass will go to get what she wants. Just as it appears Sigrid and Brand are about to be set upon by wolves wholly interested in devouring the corpse they are transporting through Helheim a gigantic man (a veritable white walker straight out of the Game of Thrones television series), calls off his dogs.
A mere six pages into Brides of Helheim #1 we’ve already met the legendary Rikard, a familiar face to those who read the original Helheim series. Sigrid wants Rikard to slay a beast that has been terrorizing her village – something they call a Móđvig – and the price she is willing to pay is her father’s corpse.
Rikard lives with the spae-women and brings Sigrid and Brand to meet the Maiden and state his business. Brides of Helheim #1 spends some time with these three women, allowing readers to witness their special brand of witchcraft that implicitly aids Rikard in all of his doings and bind him from ascending to Valhalla. Additionally, when one considers the title of this issue – Brides of Helheim #1 – the importance of these three women and the fact that the protagonist is female become very compelling details indeed.
In the latter half of Brides of Helheim #1 Rikard, Brand and Sigrid face off against the Móđvig, quite brutally, but Bunn leaves the question of whether they will remain together as a trio unanswered. The issue ends on the Mother, Maiden and Crone as they divine the great villain of the series and pinpoint his location in the then-known-world.
Brides of Helheim #1 relies heavily on a reader’s pre-existing knowledge of essential tenants of Norse mythology and of the previous Helheim series. It’s a strong idea populated with interesting characters and enough magic to validate its telling in the comic book format. I think more information ought to have been explained by the characters or given in the prologue. That being said Brides of Helheim #1 is a really, really great issue.
Original series artist Joëlle Jones does fantastic work throughout Brides of Helheim #1. Sigrid, in particular, is an ethereal beauty with true strength behind all of her actions (directly combative or otherwise), and her Tinkerbell-esque stature directly contrast Brand’s large, square frame. As imposing as Brand often seems when standing beside Sigrid, Jones suggests a gentle nature in this character as much as Sigrid’s strength.
As for the dead, unsleeping warrior of Brides of Helheim #1, Rikard is the most visually stunning. As mentioned above, he very much resembles the white walkers of A Song of Ice and Fire. Save for the most basic tenants of his frame Rikard is hardly human, Jones visually distinguishes this disgraced warrior from those readers are supposed to have pathos for. The spae-women appear much in the same way, each varying degrees from human in a style that suits their respective titles – Mother, Maiden, Crone.
As for the world of Brides of Helheim #1, Jones has it cemented firmly in the reality of the relative historical period, which not only helps ground the more mythological elements of the narrative, but piques curiosity in the reader. Does this take place in Hel or in the deepest, darkest places of our own world?
Jones’ work throughout Brides of Helheim #1 is stunning. She has created a world and populated it with characters who can stand up to their scale of their magical reality and are utterly visually distinct.
THE BOTTOM LINE: GO BACK TO HELHEIM
Any fans of the works of Cullen Bunn and Joëlle Jones will delight in this issue. Brides of Helheim #1 is interesting, shrouded in our own human mythology and even manages to eek in a requisite action scene in twenty-two pages.