Review: Thorgal - Child of the Stars Vol. One / Written by: Jean Van Hamme / Illustrated by: Grzegorz Rosinski / Published by: Cinebook Ltd / Release Date: 16th March
Thorgal is the critically acclaimed comic book series by Belgian writer Jean Van Hamme and the polish artist Grzegorz Rosiński. Originally seen in the pages of Tintin magazine it has since been collected into several volumes and exists in multiple languages being particularly popular in France.
Child of the Stars opens with the Drakkar – at least what’s left of them – lost out to sea in the grip of a powerful storm. These men are Viking raiders fallen on hard times, and it doesn’t take long for their leader, Leif Haraldson, to be challenged by the usurper, Gandalf the mad.
Gandalf believes sacrificing Leif to the gods will somehow appease them, and the storm which is a sign of the gods’ displeasure will simply go away. Just before Gandalf makes the kill, however, an eerie light flashes upon the horizon. Big on portents and omens, never ones to pass up on a chicken’s giblets, the Vikings are quick to deduce that this is also a sign from the gods. Leif should live – despite being contradictory to their earlier sign – and they should head towards the light. They row through the night and when the sun first puts in an appearance make landfall only to discover a mysterious object washed up on the beach. From within they find a child, and Leif lifts him into the air to pronounce: ‘If you’re a son of Aegir or a gift from Thor, you’ll be named after those who put you in our path to save us. Welcome amongst us, Thorgal Aegirsson!’
And so the legend is born.
So far, so boring.
Moving beyond the reason why any man would adopt a son and call him Thorgal, Child of the Stars launches into some entertaining - if a little silly - storytelling. It combines Norse mythology and Alantean fable with hokum sci-fi but mostly through the gorgeous art of Van Hamme manages to keep its head above water.
This is the first translation of the Belgium Thorgal by Cinebooks but actually the seventh in the series, and while dealing with the origins of Thorgal one has to wonder whether it’s in keeping with the creator’s original vision.
Child of the Stars is populated with Gaimanesque monsters, but to draw a comparison would probably be unfair as Thorgal outdates Gaiman’s Sandman by five years. There’s a certain rustic charm to the stories that despite being set around the 1st century have an 80’s kind of feel to them. A little splash of Highlander, add Conan and Star Trek, then shake. That’s not a bad thing, by the way, but times have moved on.
The stories remain interesting enough despite the characters being two dimensional and a little predictable. There’s a sense of set up here for the future volumes, but as this was originally intended as a prequel of sorts, one wonders if the reader will ultimately see the payoff, and will they care when it comes?
If you like a good romp through Asgardian legends and would love to see your Nordic gods without the Marvel makeover, then this is the one for you. There’s enough magic to awaken the child within and enough cheese to make six month old stilton taste mild by comparison.