For the second of our new Comic Book Reviews, Dan's ToyBox ventures into the icy north for a trip through time and a coming-of-age story. Norah Karlsson is your typical teenage girl, dealing with the loss of her mother, moving to a new city, handling school, and suffering from all the angst that accompanies such. Little does she know that one fateful evening, her life would be changed in ways she could never dream of! "Norah's Saga" is an entertaining trip into the "fish out of water" story-telling genre. Created by Patrick Stiles, written by Blake Northcott, with artwork by Kelsey Shannon, prepare yourself to be transported into a world of magic, Vikings, and a lost girl who just wants to go home.
After reading Allegiance Arts "Red Rooster" I couldn't wait to dive into the next offering in my queue. "Norah's Saga" starts out with a specific pacing in mind, that helps to develop our understanding of the things Norah has on her plate. Her mother, an expert on Norse Mythology and curator of Norse exhibits, has tragically passed and in an effort to move on with their lives, Norah and her father have moved from the country to the city. As you would guess, Norah's life is anything but easy as she struggles to fit in at school, deal with all of the changes outside of her control and continues to dream about her mother. On this particular day, Norah learns of an upcoming event and school and begs her father to take her shopping. He eventually agrees and, while on their way home in a storm, has an accident. Their vehicle swerves to avoid a deer and crashes through the ice into a lake. Authorities recover the vehicle and Norah's father, who is clinging to life, but are unable to find any evidence of the missing teenage girl. When next we see Norah, she is beneath the ice, frantically struggling to escape and is rescued by a burly axe wielding man, named Torg, and his daughter, Astrid. We realize something is amiss when we see their garb and hear their language. It's at this point that we realize Norah isn't where she thinks she is. Initially mistaken as a witch, Norah is tied up and interrogated by the village, but when enemies of this clan attack, Norah is not only freed, but also saves Astrid. Seeing Norah's necklace, which represents Thor's Hammer, Astrid and the rest of the clan realize that Norah is not a witch after all. She is soon brought to a village elder, known as The Mage, who shares that they've encountered an individual previously, who also came from Norah's time and place. His name was Ben and he too sought to return to his home time, but disappeared while searching for the mysterious Fossegrim, which legend has it, is the only being that can open the portal to return Norah home. Norah, realizing this may be her only way to get back sets out with Astrid and another companion, Nandor on a journey to find her way home.
There is a lot more to tell, but I really think anybody that wants to know, MUST snap up these books for themselves. Inasmuch as I enjoyed "Red Rooster" the three episodes of "Norah's Saga" that I read are equally as impressive. We've all read or watched "coming of age" and "epic journey" stories/movies, but the twist on this is as unexpected as it is fun to see coming. While the writing is the driving force in this story, and Northcott intricately weaves the story together seamlessly, for me what really grabbed hold was the art. Kelsey Shannon's panel layout, character design, and overall artwork is tremendous. The book manages to convey, both lightheartedness with an underlying darkness at the same time. Even when the pages show characters smiling or otherwise having what would be a happy conversation, there is still, somehow, an oppressive feel. The emphasis on shadows in the book really keeps you in a "page turning" trance to see what happens next. While writing this, it really hit me... the setting and imagery aren't designed to keep us comfortable. We are intrinsically drawn to empathize with Norah, as we've all found ourselves as "fish out of water" at one point or another in our lives. Even the fact that Norah reacts and adapts to her situation as quickly as she does, DIDN'T leave me shaking my head thinking..."No teenager would be this cool, facing something like this." I honestly was stunned when this realization hit me. I sat back and thought..."If I were in Norah's situation... I'd have likely been terrified... what is it about her that is so different?" Then I went back and re-read the first episode and realized that for all of the trauma this girl has been through in such a short period of time... she has set up some serious mental defenses and is in full on survival mode. I'm not going to dive into the psychology of the character (as that would be more my wife's department) but I will say this... Blake Northcott has done his homework when it comes to defining a character as resolute and determined as young Norah Karlsson.
Much like my experience reading "Red Rooster" once I came to the end of Episode 3, I found myself eagerly wanting to see what comes next. Thankfully, Allegiance Arts is offering all six episodes of Season One in a collected set on Indiegogo. Follow this link to get your copy, you won't regret it at all!
Norah's Saga, Season One: Song of the Fossegrim | Indiegogo