ADVANCED REVIEW: Heathen #1

Early next year the world will be introduced to the first offerings from new Publisher, Vault Comics. One of their first titles, Heathen, tells a story of gods, Valkyrie and outcasts. I had a chance to check out the first installment of the series and wanted to share some thoughts on the book.

Heathen creator Natasha Alterici pulls double duty for this series, handling both the story and art. Issue #1 introduces readers to the story’s main character, Aydis, a female warrior cast out from her village for an “unnatural” act. Early in the issue Aydis tells the story of the Valkyries, immortal female warriors created by the Godking Odin. After one disobeys his wishes, she is banished from the land of the gods, cursed to marry a mortal and live forever in exile. There are obvious parallels between Aydis’s own story and that of the fallen Valkyrie, but it’s not until the end of the issue that you see how closely their stories are intertwined. Throughout the issue readers follow Aydis on a journey that sees her encounter both friend and foe (a really, really cool foe) as she pursues her convictions.

Upon starting the book, I was immediately taken back by the art. At first glance it appeared as if Alterici had slapped some colors to her prelim sketches and called it a day. But the more time I spent with the book, the more I fell in love with the style and realized it was perfect for the story being told. The art is gritty and engaging, not unlike Heathen’s main character. When Aydis tells the story of Odin’s Valkyries, Alterici uses an even less defined style to differentiate these panels from the present day story. These panels, which started out as puzzling to me, actually became one of my favorite parts of the book. On a couple of occasions I did notice some inconsistencies in character’s appearances across different panels, but nothing severe enough to affect the reader’s experience.

While the art is deserving of its praise, it’s the story that I believe will drive this series. On the surface this story is dealing with gods, shapeshifters and bad*ss female warriors. But as I read through issue, I couldn’t help but pick up on subliminal messages related to unfair judgement, dealing with adversity and standing up for what you believe in. If I am correct in my observations and Alterici is genuinely trying to deliver a message, this title will have no trouble gaining followers as these are issues that almost everyone has dealt with at some point in life. In the final pages we see Aydis cleary state her intentions, find out there is someone else also interested in her journey and see just how closely her story is tied to the story of the fallen Valkyrie in a beautiful first-issue cliffhanger.

Final Verdict: When I first started the issue, I wasn’t sure if I would make it all the way through. By the end of the issue, I was wishing for more pages. I’ve read the issue 5 times over now, and absolutely can’t wait for the next installment. This is not your shiny, polished, traditional hero comic. This is a story with feeling, motivation and visuals that make you work for the payoff. Try something different…Try Heathen #1.

Story/Art: Natasha Alterici
Letters: Rachel Deering
Publisher: Vault Comics
Release Date: Feb 15, 2017

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