Heathen Issue 1 Published by Vault Comics
Words and Pictures: Natasha Alterici
Natasha Alterici’s Heathen is something all too rare in the world of Genre Fiction in general and Fantasy fiction specifically.
It is a re-imagining, reinterpretation and subversion of many classic Fantasy tropes and it is exactly what a genre weighed down by chain-mail bikinis and distressed damsels needs.
It is a heroic fantasy story starring a queer woman created by a queer woman.
Aydis is our heroine and the titular Heathen. A proud and brave viking warrior woman whose love for another woman, Liv, has seen her exiled from family into the icy cold wastelands.
The story opens with a tale of Brynhild, Queen of the Valkyries. Brynhild’s banishment from the Halls of Asgard mirrors Aydis’s exile by her own Father.
Over the remainder of first issue we get to know more about Aydis, her noble steed Saga and her lover Liz as well see our first glimpse of the magical forces out to manipulate our hero, in the guise of trickster God Ruadan.
Heathen was originally launched through Kickstarter last year and is now being published by up and coming Sci Fi and Fantasy Publisher Vault Comics as part of its initial wave of titles.
Alterici’s love for and deep knowledge of the subject matter comes through with every page, every panel and every line of dialogue. It combines the rich mythological tapestry of the best Thor stories with genre savvy trappings of more contemporary books like Fables and Saga.
Praise has been heaped on Game of Thrones for bring us a world of powerful women. The authenticity of Heather kicks that up a notch giving us a proud statement about identity, gender and gender roles. The elements of social commentary about the social mores of sexual identity and same sex relationships are clearly stated from this initial issue without being vulgar or on the nose.
In addition to this I would doing Alterici a great disservice if I did not talk about her art. Eagle-eyed readers of the Bat Family of books may be familiar with her contributions to pre-Rebirth favourites Gotham Academy and Grayson. The artistic skills and sensibilities from anatomy, facial expression, colour and texture which she displayed there really shine here in this creator owned series. Fans of Nicola Scott, Fiona Staple or Sophie Campbell will find a lot to love about Alterici’s art.
The cleanness of the line work is contrasted by jagged heavy inks and complimented by a subtle colour palette of subtle white, blues and greys contrasted with rich shadowy blacks and stark arctic white.
All this combines to create a rich setting and story where you can almost feel the icy cold of the tundra radiating off the page and the mundane and magical nudge up against each other and blend effortlessly.
Heathen is exactly the kind of smart, genre defying story that we need in 2017.
Natasha Alterici tackles a genre of stories best known of muscle bound, loin cloth clad, sword swinging He Men and does it with a bold vision and a clear voice.
The first four issues of Heathen are currently available Vault Comics or from Comixology. You can find out more about the other great titles from Vault at their website and keep up to date with Natasha’s plans for Aydis’s further adventures by following her on Twitter.