Review by Jamie McNeil
In the Betwixt, the dimension straddling Asgard and Midgard, Jolan Thorgalson and his companions awake after completing the initiation test to become the sorcerer Manthor’s apprentice. It’s a strange occurrence that has led them to this (I, Jolan), but only one can claim an exceptional destiny. For this test, they must enter Asgard and steal the Norse god Thor’s shield. Back in Midgard, Thorgal and his wife Aaricia learn that their son Aniel is the descendant of a red sorcerer and has been marked as the fulfillment of a prophecy. On both planes, the sons of Thorgal are surrounded by enemies and while one must rely on his parents, the other must face his destiny alone and decide. Will he become like his enemies or the man who raised him?
While artist Grzegorz Rosinski’s art is not as refined as in earlier days, the trials and tragedies Thorgal and his family face are believable. He’s always had a way with pantomime villains, and the hedge witch Aaricia consults a grotesque creature (see sample), however, he’s always been better at those potential antagonists, ones you’re not so sure about and could be friend or foe. Is Manthor really on the side of good, or does he have his own agenda? The castle he lives in is vivid and his followers are engaging. The way Rosinski renders these characters, his eye for colour, and his enviable ability to craft atmosphere is what sets him apart from other artists.
Yves Sente has continued to use plot lines inherited from Jean Van Hamme, some years in the making, yet Thor’s Shield is his own. Developing ideas as he goes, much like his predecessor did in the early days, there is still a sense that Sente is building to something bigger. Jolan’s new companions are still being developed, some getting their identity faster than others, yet the main cast stay interesting when they could so easily have become tiresome by now. Thorgal and his family have been through so many adventures and mishaps, you wouldn’t think there was anything to surprise frequent readers, but Sente produces a tense plot where some nasty things can happen and personal choices made could turn out to be honourable or deceitful.
Thor’s Shield is unique in being a complete tale but also setting the tone for future stories. What are Manthor’s intentions and what role does Jolan still have to play? More is revealed in Thorgal: The Battle of Asgard.