The Thorgal series of graphic story albums by Belgian writer Van Hamme and Polish artist Rosinski are among the most popular of the fertile and highly productive Franco-Belgian comics scene. Currently running at over 30 volumes, the adventures of this Viking-raised son of a spaceship captain have been reprinted in at least ten different languages and have seen total global sales figures reach the millions.
So what's all the fuss about? Well, at first glance, this volume, The Master of The Mountains (Cinebooks), appears to be an efficient, though beautifully rendered, historical-fantasy romp around the world of Norse mythology, as our hero, Thorgal, attempting to find safe passage through snow-covered mountains, stumbles across a runaway slave, Torric, and a mysterious ring. And so, with these two narrative impellers in place, thrills and adventure ensue.
The artwork — exquisite in its rendering of both large-scale backdrops and in its depiction of the small details of human interaction — is reminiscent of the flickering, cinematic, European-influenced style of Klaus Janson, applauded for his work on mainstream US comics such as The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Gothic. The dialogue is at times somewhat clunky and expositional, possibly as a result of the translation from another language, and the intended broad appeal of the work necessitates a straightforward approach to narrative that may appear somewhat conventional to those familiar with the sophisticated narrative conceits and devices of more recent comics.
The combination of history, mythology, supernatural and science fiction that the series is known for at times almost completely shreds any sense of verisimilitude achieved by the detailed, realistic artwork and apparent gravitas of the central character. This is amply compensated, though, by the rip-roaring pace and deft handling of the all-important action, making this a dizzying, often visually stunning, exercise in high-adventure that will appeal to all ages.
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