This might be heresy to some, but I think I actually prefer Brian Wood's scripts for his smaller stories in "Northlanders." While there's always been something to appreciate in his two longer "Northlanders" mini-epics, it's the one-shots and two-parters that have really grabbed my attention the most. With "The Shield Maidens" drawing to a conclusion here, it's a nice take on the "base under siege" story.
I think what I appreciated the most was that Wood strips out all of the macho bull that so normally permeates this kind of story. The women holed up in the castle here are tough and resourceful, but they also can read the writing on the wall. There's no "we'll stay here until we die!" machismo, with instead our heroes knowing that their time is running out and it's not a question of if they can hold out for all eternity, but rather for how long they can survive.
At the end of the day, it's that quest to survive that makes the story work. It's not guaranteed, and the women do the absolute best they can with a bad situation. But when the defenses begin to crumble and things look hopeless, their next steps move the story forward into new situations and settings. Just like the two-part story that ran in "Northlanders" #9-10, I found myself yearning for a sequel before I'd even hit the conclusion of "The Shield Maidens," which is impressive when you realize that there was no guarantee that anyone would still be alive to write about when the final page was reached.
It's been a while since I've read a comic drawn by Danijel Zezelj, but he and colorist Dave McCaig do an amazing job with the art in "Northlanders." I love that Zezelj's art looks almost like paper with outlines razored out of them, each figure popping off the page in jagged shapes of darkness. His dark, thick inks are perfect for "Northlanders," giving a brutal, old look to the pages. McCaig works well in concert with Zezelj, using a minimal color palette so that each page has its own mood and feel. From the sea greens of the early pages, to the deep reds of the battle, everything is jaw-droppingly gorgeous.
I'm continually pleased with "Northlanders," and of course if there's ever one story you don't care for, wait a couple months and something new will come down the pike. That said, though, stories like "The Shield Maidens" will always keep me coming back for more. With a great script and beautiful art, it's hard not to love.