Lesbian Viking Heroes: Should You Be Reading ‘Heathen’? [Pride Week]
When you look at the sheer range and number of original stories being told in comics form today, it’s hard to imagine a better time to be a comics reader. Online and in print, from all around the world, artists and writers are telling stories with their own voices and styles, and there’s so much to choose from that it’s sometimes difficult to know what to read next. With Should I Be Reading… ?, ComicsAlliance hopes to offer you a guide to some of the best original ongoing comics being published today.
Do you like Vikings? Do you like lesbian heroes? Do you like comics about Viking lesbian heroes? Then you might just like Heathen, Natasha Alterici’s creator-owned comic series.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
After she’s caught kissing another young woman from her Norse village, Aydis runs away to escape either death or a forced marriage. But she is the daughter of a Viking warrior, and decides to go on a noble, dangerous quest. Namely, she’s off to break Odin’s curse on the imprisoned Valkyrie Brynhild. The odds (and gods) are against her, but if she can break the curse, Aydis might just set both of them free.
WHO'S IT BY?
Heathen is drawn and written by Natasha Alterici. Besides freelance graphic design work and Heathen, Alterici is working on the Dinosaur Project --- short monthly black and white dinosaur-themed comics --- through her Patreon.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?
First and foremost, the art in Heathen is just stunning. Alterici’s character designs are so smart and distinct. I can’t decide which I like better: her designs for the human characters, her designs for the immortals, or her designs for the animal characters. They’re all great, as are her page layout choices. The first issue is the most sketch-like of the volume, but issue two brings a cleaner style to the inks that continues through the rest of the volume.
What brings the issues together, though, are the colors. The backgrounds are very muted (almost pastel) blues, pinks, and greys, with browns, white, and black as the main color accents for the characters themselves. The contrast of the background colors with the neutral tones of the characters is so effective.
There’s been a lot of talk in the last few months in particular about how too many stories featuring queer women --- on TV, in movies, or in comics --- focus on tragedy and death. And as the start of a multi-volume story, this tale of a lesbian hero is very sad so far --- she gets her heart broken and has to leave the life she knew behind. But what makes this special is that her life coming apart is only the beginning of her journey. That’s an important distinction.
Part of the joy of reading this comic is seeing how Aydris’ quest is about validating the many fractals of her identity. The journey is about her life as a warrior, her life as a woman, her life as a gay woman, woven together with her belief that all of those things should be seen as good and valid. And her quest of choice --- to free a Valkyrie against the orders of Odin himself --- mirrors her fight for freedom against the patriarchal society she was born into.
WHO SHOULD READ IT?
This is clearly for comic readers desperate for more adventuring heroines, especially queer heroines. If you’re a fan of Red Sonja, Xena: Warrior Princess, or Marvel’s various Angela books, Heathen will be right up your alley.
WHERE CAN I READ IT?
You can buy the first volume of Heathen digitally on Comixology, as well as in print through the Heathen website. The first volume is set to be re-released under a new publisher soon, and Alterici has said there will be a Kickstarter campaign coming for volume two of the book very soon, so look out for that.