Vinland Saga vol. 2 (HC) – Makoto Yukimura

5 out of 5

The second how-is-this-so-good hardcover collection – comprising volumes 3 and 4 – of Makoto Yukimura’s Vinland Saga, we continue tracking Thorfinn’s tumultuous “apprenticeship” under Askeladd, touching briefly on the time between Thors’ passing and the 1013 AD now of the tale – the fascinating, broiling subjectivity of Thorfinn working for Askeladd so as to earn the right to battle him to the death.

On this path, we join the cold, bemused leader, taking his troops into England on King Sweyn’s behalf, where the rules many bands of Vikings are getting absolutely thrashed by turncoat Thorkell, a beastly man who’s joined up with England seemingly simply for joy of battle, vibing on the Viking belief that dying in the midst of one will be the path to Valhalla.

As we’ve seen, Askeladd is ever-calculating, and the same is true here, positioning himself to protect Danish prince Canute, luring Thorkell into a chase which leads Askeladd’s band into Welsh territory, for some intriguing revelations regarding his persona. Through this trio – Askeladd, Thorkell, Thorfinn – Yukimura is able to sketch out a subtly effected study of Viking history, and the different personality types populating it; the big-screen action, awesomely arted and detailed, makes for page-turning energy, with these researched details dotting and grounding the work throughout.

Another masterful set. Every time I start to wonder if Yukimura has just decided to give the story over to full-on action, character nuances and fascinating bits of atmosphere rear their heads; the structure itself being zig-zaggingly clever, bookended by depictions of casual atrocity, then intercut with comedic pieces like the Vikings trying to understand the meaning of the word ‘love,’ which also serve to underline the divisions in languages, and cultures. The book is absolutely driven by such storytelling and narrative, stitched to blockbuster set dressings and bombast.

The set gets the second part of the bonus short story started in volume 1, along with story notes and the bonus chapters from the original tankobons.