Contrary to the credit to "Matt Ligeti" above, this lovely review is written by Heather, founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Valkyries. Heather is an avid player of games, reader of comics, watcher of films and drinker of brews! Big into horror movies, games, and books, she is always down for a movie chat and a gin! Her favourite game is The Witcher 3. This review was written as a love letter to the comic, "from one Valkyrie to another."
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Cartoonist: Natasha Alterici Letterer: Rachel Deering Publisher: Vault Comics
WHAT IS IT?
Heathen is a fist-pumping tale of bravery, fighting injustices and learning to love and accept yourself. A lone warrior is on a mission that will change the world. A mission to fight the Gods.
Heathen is wrapped in Norse Mythology with strong warrior women, talking animals and characters you can’t help but love.
Fans of the God of War (2018) video game are sure to love Heathen.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
The story of Aydis, a Viking, an outcast who is assumed dead and a self-proclaimed Heathen. Aydis is on a quest to rescue the immortal Valkyrie warrior Bryhilde. Our little warrior does not just want to claim her prize from Brynhilde. She wants to end the oppressive rule of God-King Odin.
No one is surprised I loved this, are they?
Aydis is a strong, determined warrior but she doesn’t lose sight of what is important to her, even when offered a life full of love and pleasure. She is so intensely brave, but that is not her greatest strength. That, I know I am running the risk of sounding like I am from Hercules here, but her greatest strength is the strength of her heart. She doesn’t hold any ill will towards Liv, whose kiss led to her exile. She frees Bryrnhilde, not for glory or her prize, but just to set her free.
Aydis fights oppression, inequality, and to prove that women are not secondary. She may not wear spandex or have any powers, but she is still certainly a hero.
Heathen was the first book I picked up from the folks at Vault. It seems so long ago now, that I took a chance on this seemingly unknown book. Lord, am I glad that I did. Heathen, along with The Wicked and The Divine, are instrumental in my founding of The Valkyries.
Heathen is a beautifully put-together story. The tone and messages within the narrative are really at-home within the Norse setting. The characters and their struggles are easy to relate to; anyone who has ever faced injustice, bigotry, or prejudice will be able to really feel for and identify with the characters.
Natasha’s artwork is like nothing else. Each muted almost sepia tone page is so full of life and movement. The scratchy, hurried linework is full of life and texture – you could not call the pages of Heathen "flat"!
This is history brought to life in a way that is both new and exciting, but accessible. Natasha is injecting her own twist and tale into the Norse setting, but the tales the characters tell are well-known and loved myths. We meet characters from these myths who are well-researched and well-developed. I particularly loved Skull and Hati, the wolves who seek to eat the moon and sun.
The level of LGBTQ+ representation is so strong. The attitude (from the gods, not the villagers) is one of such love and acceptance. Natasha has written such a positive and strong lesbian hero. We are reminded all the way through that she is loved and accepted for who she is. The contrast between the bigotry of the clans and the acceptance of the gods and Valkyries is so relatable.
The lead characters are full of heart and kindness. Which, considering they are all warriors of the highest order in the time of the vikings, could’ve been just as easily not the case. We learn from Aydis and Brynhilde you can be strong, brave, and kind – that they are not mutually exclusive. In Heathen, kindness and empathy are not weaknesses but a strengths.
The nudity and the costume design. The nudity is not sexualised, it is just bodies. Natasha has done great work to subvert the male gaze that is so common when it comes to scantily clad comics women. But these women are strong and confident in their bodies not objectified.
Heathen Volume 1 is a real binge-worthy comic book. The issues are seamlessly blended together in a way that keeps the pace going all the way until the end. We meet an array of characters, but all are introduced and designed in a way that is distinctive, we do not struggle to keep track of who’s who.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
Fans of extremely clean lines and bold colours might find themselves distracted by the art style. However, I personally think by the end of the issue, you’ll love it.
The volume does include mature scenes and nudity so discretion is advised for parents and an audience of older teens + is suggested.
Themes including homophobia and forced marriages are present which could cause some discomfort to readers.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Looking for a timeless adventure steeped in rich Norse Mythology? Want more badass leading ladies and positive representation? Then Heathen will tick all your boxes!
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Heathen Volume 2 by Natasha Alterici, Rachel Deering, Vault Comics
Submerged by Vita Ayala, Stelladia, Lisa Sterle, Rachel Deering, Vault Comics
Blackbird by Sam Humphries, Jen Bartel, Image Comics
If you like the art:
Heathen Volume 2 by Natasha Alterici, Rachel Deering, Vault Comics
Resonant by David Andry, Harry Saxon, Ale Aragon, Deron Bennet, Tim Daniels, Vault Comics
Tamers by Natasha Alterici
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Natasha Alterici – Writer and Illustrator
Multitalented: Writer and freelance artist of over 10 years
Reviews lesbian films in comic form
Rachel Deering – Letterer
Nominated for the Eisner and The Harvey Award
Multitalented: Writer, editor, book designer, letterer and publisher
Charles Martin – Editor
Multitalented: Editing, publishing, writing, journalism
Written Novels and Screenplays\
Rebecca Rutledge – Editor
Multitalented: Editor and Writer
Written several books on parenting and self-help
Has a PhD
Kristen Grace – Editor
Multitalented: Writer and editor
Has written several books
Does a podcast with Charles Martin
HOW DO I BUY IT?
Click one of these:
The first issue can be read free on the Publisher, Vault Comics website
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