Graphic Novel Review: Vinland Saga Volume 3 by Makoto Yukimura

May Contain Spoilers


I love this series, and I can’t figure out why.  It is violent and depressing, peopled with unlikeable characters.  These guys are unrepentant killers.  They cheerfully engage in murder and thievery, and most lack even the barest sense of honor.  I hate Askeladd, and was really hoping Thorkell would bash his head in with his mighty axe, but no!  The evil, self-serving marauder did not meet his end in the third volume of Vinland Saga.

This volume was over 400 pages of non-stop action.  My wrist is sore from the rapid page turning, and this massive book was literally glued to my hands.  Vinland Saga is one of the most exciting graphic novels that I’ve ever read, and the art is stunning in its brutality.  Fans of Berserk really need to read this, because the two series have a lot in common.  Tortured hero who lives by the blade.  Check.  Violent characters who don’t hesitate to make a deadly show of force.  Check.  One horrific bloodbath after another.  Check!  And worked into all of the glorious violence is the political wrangling for control of the Danish throne.  Which brings me to the only character I really like – young Prince Canute, who has been sent to war by his father King Sweyn, in hopes that he’ll be killed in battle. Like I said, there aren’t a lot of people to look up to in the series.  Everyone is out for their own gain, which makes everything they do suspect, even question a father’s love for his son.

The action gets thick and heavy when Thorkell discovers that Askeladd’s men are lying low in a small village after killing all of the inhabitants, save for the one woman who barely escaped with her life.  Suddenly the chase is on.  Can Thorkell catch Askeladd and reclaim the weak Canute for himself?  Askeladd’s men grow more desperate as the terrifying Thorkell and his men march ever closer to their position.  Askeladd’s men mutter darkly among themselves; Askeladd’s luck has turned, maybe it’s time to look to a new leader.  Oh, dear!  Will Askeladd keep control of his men, through the respect he’s earned with the blade of his sword?  Or will they turn on him like a pack of dogs?  More power to them, I wanted to yell.  Take that bastard down!  Not that any of the other warriors are much better, but wow!  Askeladd has done some horrible things in just three volumes!  Indiscriminate slaughter being just one of them.  These guys do like to kill, and they don’t care who gets caught on the end of their blade.

Thorfinn and Thorkell have a fierce battle.  The winner gets Askeladd.   Do you think Thorfinn is going to let an opportunity like that go by?  No freaking way!  Who cares that Thorkell is a giant, towering over his much smaller opponent.  What a great battle!  The art really shone here, with convincing movement and incredibly emotional facial expressions.  I’ll say it again – the illustrations are fantastic, driving the story forward at a frantic pace, catching your attention and refusing to let it go, or to give your poor eyes a break.  Weapons clash, blood spills, body parts fly off the pages.  It is so mind-numbingly intense!

While the battles were exhilarating, my favorite part of this volume was Canute.  He finally found his voice.  He found his resolve, and he found his power, and boy, oh, boy, his father had better watch out.  From a quiet, weak boy, to a proud, determined leader, all in the span of a few chapters.   Yes!  I want to know what kind of man he becomes, to see if he, too, is shaped into a cold, heartless leader like all of the men around him.

I enjoyed Vinland Saga Volume 3 so much that when I finished, I hopped onto Amazon to see when the next volume comes out.  Guess what!  It’s already out!  And at $5.49 for the Kindle, it is MINE!

Grade:  A

Review copy provided by my local library

From Amazon:

A BLOODY COMING OF AGE In a gambit to become the power behind the Danish and English thrones, Askeladd has taken the prince, Canute, and plunged deep into a winter storm behind enemy lines. Canute’s father, King Sweyn, gives him up for dead in his haste to suppress English resistance. But Askeladd’s small band can’t outrun the tenacious maniac Thorkell forever, and when the warriors finally clash, a storm of sweat and gore ensues that will turn a boy into a man and a hostage into a ruler of men!