#Norsevember Graphic Novel review – Karl the Viking Volume 1

Don Lawrence’s first masterpiece, from the artist of The Rise and Fall of The Trigan Empire comes the epic historical fantasy of Karl the Viking!

“Lawrence [is] celebrated for his richly coloured, highly detailed visions of fantastic worlds.” – The New York Times

Originally serialised in Lion, Karl the Viking is a sweeping historical fantasy story of an orphaned Saxon boy, adopted and raised by the viking Eingar after his raid on Britain. Upon coming of age Karl succeeds Eingar and leads his tribe into battle in Britain against wild tribes of Picts, and re-connects with his old Saxon family, gaining an ally in his cousin Godwulf, and making an enemy of the Earl of Eastumbria.

These fast-paced stories were drawn by Don Lawrence shortly before he revolutionised painted comic art with The Trigan Empire, when he was already a master of pen and ink, and his Karl the Viking series was the pinnacle of black and white comic art.

Amazon | goodreads


My Review

I was given a digital arc of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Rebellion Publishing and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity.

Karl the Viking Volume 1 is a fun and entertaining graphic novel bringing together 6 stories all of which were originally serialised in Lion in the 1960s. The artwork is done by the amazingly talented Don Lawrence and is very detailed and evocative of the exciting tales told in the stories. The artwork does most of the heavy lifting in this book, making it easy to visualise exactly what is happening in the plot and the locations and emotions the characters are feeling. The accompanying words are definitely not the star of the show and there are a few instances of an editor being needed. Eingar, Karl’s adoptive father, seems to change his name to Ragnar occasionally, for one example and Karl is also sometimes referred to as Erik. However you do not usually read a graphic novel for its prose and the black and white artwork is visually stunning. The stories are imaginative and exciting with giants, monsters, the fall of Atlantis, a wolf-man, giant seed pods invading Scandinavia, lions and a rhino in a gladiatorial arena, plenty of fights and peril and our hero floating unconscious in the ocean on more than one occasion. He does seem to lead a somewhat charmed life, no doubt protected by Odin, which is of course necessary for him to be able to return for more exciting stories in the next volume! I enjoyed the drawings accompanying these stories very much. The tension of the action sequences is very well conveyed. I would recommend this book to all fans of fast-paced action-packed graphic novels with stout-hearted heroes.

The stories within this volume are:

THE SWORD OF EINGAR

Serialised in Lion
29th October 1960 – 11th February 1961
Written by Ted Cowan
Art by Don Lawrence

Eingar the Viking chief adopts a baby Saxon boy he has orphaned and raises him as his own son and heir, Karl the Viking.

THE LONG VOYAGE TO OXACA

Serialised in Lion
18th February – 22nd July 1961
Written by Ted Cowan
Art by Don Lawrence

Returning a boy king to his far distant home of Oxaca, Karl and his Viking shipmates encounter many adventures and overcome many obstacles.

SELGOR THE WOLF

Serialised in Lion
29th July – 11th November 1961
Written by Ted Cowan
Art by Don Lawrence

Karl is pitted against a wolf man, Selgor who has burned his village and killed his blood brother. Only the fiercest of the two will win the riches of Woden.

THE FALSE GOD

Serialised in Lion
18th November 1961 – 24th March 1962
Written by Ted Cowan
Art by Don Lawrence

An old enemy returns, wearing a golden mask and pretending to be the god Thor. Karl is determined to prove he is not a god and follows him to Egra in Sicily, where gladiatoral exploits follow.

THE POWERS OF HELVUD

Serialised in Lion
31st March – 28th July 1962
Written by Ted Cowan
Art by Don Lawrence

Giant mind-altering seed pods invade Scandinavia and threaten madness for an already decimated population following clan wars.

EL SARID THE MERCILESS

Serialised in Lion
4th August – 1st December 1962
Written by Ted Cowan
Art by Don Lawrence

North African Saracen raiders with the appearance of wild beasts attack the Viking villages in search of plunder.

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