THE SECRET OF THE AESIR
a new graphic novel
written and illustrated by
Set during the 8th century A.D. amidst the tundra and glacier scarred valleys of northern Scandinavia, THE SECRET OF THE AESIR describes the journey of a contingent of Viking warriors, who guided by their knowledge of the far north, discover a mystery that is older than the Aesir, older than Odin himself.
On every page Alan Langford brings such life to his drawings that the reader can sense the presence and strength of the characters, feel the chill of the icy landscape and see the hot breath of the horses.
The idea of creating a graphic novel of his own conception had long been Alan’s ambition, and in the winter of 2017 he finally began his dream project. THE SECRET OF THE AESIR is the result of three years of intense work, almost without a break.
Every one of the graphic novel’s 132 pages is an artwork in itself, successfully capturing the atmosphere of what is believed to be the dark ages of pagan Scandinavia, and powerfully telling the story of the Norsemen who courageously sought the answer to THE SECRET OF THE AESIR.
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Simon Chadwick –
In Scandinavia of the 8th Century, a group of Vikings is taking part in an annual trek to pay homage to Mjolnir, the Norse God of Thunder’s hammer. This is a humongous artifact in the bleak landscape, continually drawing down lightning from the heavens.
The warriors are accompanied by two Christian priests, one of which seeks strength from his god to defy this pagan monstrosity, while the other is more pragmatic and curious. When a mysterious vision appears before Mjolnir the Viking’s shaman decrees that a handful of warriors must advance into the wasteland beyond the Needle of Odin to discover what it means. This requires crossing a harsh landscape and through the territories of the strange people that live there; it’s not a task that a Viking warrior is going to shrink from.
What they find in the far north is utterly beyond their comprehension. Being neither man-made nor of the gods, it will take the pragmatic priest to finally understand it.
Beautifully illustrated throughout in monochrome, Alan Langford uses his life-long love of the medium to craft his own tale that would sit very comfortably in the 2000AD comics I enjoyed in the 1980s. And Alan had pedigree there, not least a Tharg’s Future Shock story written by Alan Moore. I’ve always loved how a good comic story can draw elements from history, science, and mythology, and it’s clear that Alan feels the same as he’s interwoven those threads to build a compelling narrative. He’s also an exceptional equestrian artist, so having his Vikings mounted means there are dozens of striking panels that channel a Frank Frazetta vibe.
It’s moody and atmospheric, and oddly it remains grounded in reality despite its science fiction leanings. Alan knows just how far to stray into the fantastic to give his tale wonder and awe. We have an inclination of where it’s heading early on, but because we’re companions of the Vikings, seeing the world as they see it, we can revel in their understanding – or lack of – as the narrative puts down its layers.
To say that this would have been right at home in a 1980s’ comic doesn’t mean that this book feels in any way dated. Rather, it captures a spirit that I’ve rarely seen since, where the artist was given the time he needed to make the very best of the page, and the story was allowed to unfold at a pace that suited the telling. For me, it’s captured a sense of nostalgia that is very welcome indeed.
It’s 132 lovingly crafted pages that have taken three years to complete. You’ll appreciate every minute of that time as you’re absorbed by the pages, the characters, and the answers they seek.
Fighting Fantasy books and 2000AD “Future Shocks” fans may recognise Alan Langford‘s name as the creator of The Secret of the AESIR, but for many comic readers of today, I suspect his name might be a mystery. Which is a shame, because his comic art is, to be frank, pretty jaw-dropping.
Better known now as an equestrian artist, a full member of the Society of Equestrian Artists specialising in Equestrian, Fantasy and Historical art, Alan, who lives in the New Forest, began his artistic career in 1979. Back then, he was working as a full-time illustrator of topographical scenes in pen and ink, which were transferred on to copper plaques. After three years, he went freelance, working through a Fleet Street artists agency, mainly illustrating comics, including 2000AD, Eagle and SuperNaturals.
Since his comics days, he’s illustrated history books, encyclopaedias, the aforementioned fantasy game books, adventure stories, and more, also working for the BBC illustrating the stories of Romulus and Remus and Androcles and the Lion for the children’s television programme, ZIG ZAG.
Clearly, however, Alan had an itch – and that itch was writing and drawing his own full-length graphic novel, a medium for which he clearly has a great love, noted in the preface of The Secret of AESIR, and more than evidenced by the quality of the art of this SF historical adventure.
Consider that itch well and truly scratched, because The Secret of AESIR is very much worth your attention. Largely told across a period of just a few days, The Secret of AESIR centres on a group of warriors heading northwards through what is now known as Scandinavia on a quest to “bear witness to … to the gods of our people”. What they actually witness turns out to be, as readers will recognise, the site of a spaceship crash – and from there, the adventures of the troop take a turn into wonder, from encountering dwarves through to lake-dwelling monsters.
It would be wrong of me to spoil the story, but running to over 120 pages of gorgeous black and white art, in terms of style The Secret of the AESIR harks back to a kind of devotion to craft some might argue is rarely seen, and the title is more than worthy of comparison with the epic feel of many European graphic novels. Yet, while harking back to Eagle, Lion, Look and Learn and Trigan Empire, what you actually get is a sophisticated, thoughtful take on “cargo culture” that is thoroughly modern and hugely enjoyable.
My artist friend Smuzz rightfully describes The Secret of the AESIR as “one of those ‘comics like they don’t make any more’ which is just very newly made”, which sums up The Secret of the AESIR rather perfectly. It is very definitely the kind of graphic novel many will enjoy, given opportunity.
It’s not without fault – for me, the storytelling sometimes jars, and this is for the most part very much a story of events, rather than a story of individual characters. But as a work of one creator – writing, drawing and lettering the entire tale – such commentary is incidental in the face of such beautifully drawn pages, that proved a sheer delight to turn.
I’d urge you to head toward the The Secret of the AESIR official web site to find out more, or simply take a punt, having seen here just what is on offer and – go buy it!
Matthew Dewhurst (verified owner) –
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading Alan Langford’s graphic novel THE SECRET OF THE AESIR. It’s pure Langford in its entirety and perfectly showcases his extraordinary talents for illustrating and writing, and the passionate ease with which he utilises those skills to transfer a captivating narrative into the imagination of the beguiled reader.
If like me you are a fan of fantasy art and grew up in the 1980’s you may well be familiar with Alan’s work. He has illustrated for the B.B.C. for the children’s historical TV programme ZIG ZAG, the comics SUPERNATURALS, WARLORD, THE EAGLE and 2000 AD. Plus the iconic roll playing game books published by Puffin known as the famous FIGHTING FANTASY series.
Alan is a full member of the S.E.A. THE SOCIETY OF EQUESTRIAN ARTISTS and many of his paintings can be seen reproduced in his very condensed autobiography WELGORA, ( which translates as horse fair from Romani Jib. )
Despite his time consuming career working as an equestrian artist, Alan has found the time to create this 130 page long graphic novel. An incredible feat and testament to his accomplished and broad skill set , it had taken him almost three years to complete.
The book is an exciting amalgam of history, science fiction and mythological fantasy.
The books format is also impressive, a striking full colour cover measuring 246 mm X 168 mm.
The interior artwork is depicted using spirit pens enhanced with a grey watercolour wash and is beautifully reproduced. A sturdy volume, 8 mm thick, with a total of 140 pages altogether including a preface and afterword. It truly deserves your attention.
So just like Odin, keep an eye out for it.
Lawrence Evans –
A great read with excellent art work. Having the characters explore each fantastical element with their ancient world view is such a pleasure and so well thought out. The aquatic visitors were an especially fun revelation.