Vinland Saga vol. 6 (HC) – Makoto Yukimura

5 out of 5

Collects volumes 11 and 12 in one hardcover.

Having now read Makoto Yukimura’s Planetes, his series preceding Vinland Saga, while I was undeniably impressed by the craft of the story, I did feel that its messaging was somewhat ineffective and shallow. With Vinland, Yukimura has (rarely, but) occasionally stumbled with communicating the complexities of Thorfinn’s progression from eager tyke to vengeance-bound warrior and now, to slave, and last volume’s pronouncement from this character of seeking to end slavery was logical but also somewhat worrisome: were we also bound for some kind of shallow “love saves the day” type progression?

Maybe eventually, but as of these followup books: hell no. If anything, this is the kind of deeper exploratory work that Planetes – to me – lacked, adding more realism to Thorfinn’s mindset, and also clarifying more what he may mean. We also get the juxtaposition of plenty of events that underline the different ways violence and domination manifested during the times, at least within the historical context as it’s presented: Canute’s manipulations of the crown and his lands, and willingness to persecute a few so he can rule the many; the blood-soaked path of an escape slave, rather oppositely mirroring Thorfinn’s own trajectory; and how “honor” and general Viking sensibilities factor into behaviors.

This is all magnificently paced, rendering very expository and action-dry sequences into riveting, thoughtful passages, capable of swinging back and forth between comedy and tensions and drama on a whim. Yukimura is also able to do the kind of inward reflecting – Thorfinn imagining Askeladd speaking to him – that something like Vagabond did very well, and in a very concise fashion.

On one level, not much “happens” in these volumes – our characters are ultimately in the same place they were before – but it’s very conceptually dense.

Includes an ‘Ask Yukimura’ section, and some funny bonus comics, some drawn by Makoto’s assistants.