Review: The Sword of Hyperborea #1
The Sword of Hyperborea #1 is the first installment of a four issue miniseries centered around a titular sword that has had an impact on the Mignolaverse from the dawn of time (From its name, I can deduce it’s connected to Robert E. Howard/Conan stuff.) to the apocalypse aka Ragna Rok. On paper, this sounds pretty fucking cool like Hellboy meets Highlander, or like Michael Walsh’s Silver Coin, but sword and sorcery. However, in execution, this new comic from Mike Mignola, Rob Williams, Laurence Campbell, and Quinton Winter is far from it. With the exception of the opening sequence which establishes BPRD Agent Howards’ relationship with Liz Sherman as well as his duty as wielder of the Sword of Hyperborea, this book is a confusing mess that will only resonate with hardcore Mignolaverse fans. There are bits and pieces that are coherent like one of Gall Dennar’s fellow tribe members saying that his strength only comes from the sword and paying the price, but it doesn’t come together into any kind of satisfying whole, or even slice of a story.
And this is a shame because Campbell and Winter’s visuals are damn good. Laurence Campbell’s style is a hybrid between Mignola and Andrea Sorrentino while Quinton Winter’s palette is suitably apocalyptic with clashing pitch blacks and lights. Winter brings an elemental approach to the coloring of the book with lots of green, reds, and whites fitting for a story that is set, for better and worse, around the dawn of humanity. (The one line in Mike Mignola and Williams’ script that I actually smiled at was Liz calling Howards, “Captain Caveman” before he jumps into action.) This works well with Campbell’s thick, sketchy lines that show the struggle to survive in prehistoric times, and how something like the Sword of Hyperborea can turn the tide. On the other hand, Laurence Campbell takes a simpler approach to his monster: all tentacles and straight lines like a kind of end point to humanity.
The Sword of Hyperborea #1 is centered around a simple idea: one day humanity will be destroyed by monsters. It’s hard not to connect to what Mignola and Rob Williams have put in their script with a deadly pandemic raging, income inequality soaring, and the climate rapidly changing. I definitely get that foreboding from Campbell and Quinton Winter’s art, but it doesn’t come through in the story, which is structured like some vignettes (Howards fighting monsters, Gall Dennar’s tribe succession, Howards/Dennar going into a deep dark cave) combined with trailer type images that will either be fleshed out down the road, or are already familiar to Mignolaverse fans. There’s repeated mentions of Chicago and modern imagery juxtaposed with the cave/apocalyptic stuff, and without context, it reads like generic foreshadowing.
Also, I don’t get a feel for either Howards or Dennar as characters beyond they have a magic sword and are going up against monsters that end the world. It looks cool, but I don’t care about these guys at all, sorry. Also, the apocalypse doesn’t have much build up beyond tentacles and lightning. It’s all very vague and reads like a Xerox of a Xerox of Robert E. Howard’s ouevre: all keywords and bad things happening and not even fun purple prose. Honestly, if this wasn’t connected to Hellboy and BPRD in some way, I wouldn’t even tell the hardcore fans to check it out.
Laurence Campbell and Quinton Winter bring some compelling prehistoric and high fantasy settings to life in The Sword of Hyperborea #1, but Mike Mignola and Rob Williams’ script is too bogged down in lore to make Agent Howards or Gall Dennar compelling leads. By the end of the issue, I just know that Dennar is a strong guy with a sword who doesn’t have much of a personality beyond beating his rivals and monsters with the aforementioned sword. If I predict correctly from the ending, subsequent issues are going to jump into different time periods and introduce additional characters, who are hopefully fleshed out more, but that’s a path I would only recommend for the Mignolaverse completionists.
Script: Mike Mignola and Rob Williams Art: Laurence Campbell
Colors: Quinton Winter Letters: Clem Robins
Story: 5.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 6.0 Recommendation: Pass
Dark Horse Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review