Acclaimed comics writer Brian Wood teams with his Briggs collaborator Mack Chater in Sword Daughter – a new series adding to his already impressive back-catalogue of fantasy comics. One thousand years ago, a murderous clan known as the Forty Swords burned a village to the ground, leaving just two people alive: a shattered father and his teenage daughter. Setting off on a revenge quest that will span the width of Viking Age Europe, they find the key to repairing their damaged relationship lies in the swords they carry.
If you’re familiar at all with Wood’s work on Conan or Northlanders, you should know that sword and sorcery are one his strong suits. Much like he has done in his previous work in this genre, he brings a gritty style of storytelling that does not gloss over the more unsavoury aspects of this time period. The opening sequence is particularly effective in this regard depicting the destruction of protagonist Elsbeth’s village and the slaughter of her family. Chater’s art creates a hellish atmosphere further aided by Jose Villarrubia’s vivid colouring (especially his liberal use of the colour red). At the same time, it also shows a degree of restraint that one wouldn’t normally expect.
It’s fairly standard for modern depictions of revenge stories to be stylised and flashy affairs, but Sword Daughter takes a more grounded approach to both the storytelling and the violence. Sword fights use the hack and slash approach as opposed to the more graceful style of combat you’d see in something like Kill Bill for example. When someone is decapitated, blood isn’t spurting everywhere and it doesn’t come across as swift/effortless action. It helps that Elsbeth is a mostly silent character with her occasional narration, body language and interaction with her father acting as the main ways to establish her motivations. If anything, the story style is more akin to the work of Akira Kurosawa and Jean Pierre Dionnet’s classic fantasy comic Armies that both take a no-nonsense approach to revenge and violence.
This measured approach also allows more focus to be put upon the relationship between Elsbeth and her father Dag. Revenge seems to be programmed into Elsbeth’s head at this point of her life whilst it comes across as a combination of duty and right of care to Dag. It creates an interesting dynamic between the two with Elsbeth in particular maintaining somewhat of a cold edge throughout the first arc towards him that only shows signs of thawing towards the end.
This is a terrific revenge themed comic that will definitely appeal to any fans of Wood’s work on Conan and Northlanders. Plus, anyone looking for a fantasy with a more measured look should definitely give this series a look.
9781506707822 – H/B – £16.99