Pullbox Reviews: Kriss – The Baddest Berserker Goth in the Land…

When the northern kingdom of Darkovia was conquered, Imperial forces returned home to be hailed as heroes. They brought with them captives and treasure to serve as tribute in their homeland, as well as a grim reminder of what happens to those who defy Imperial rule. Passing through the village of Varne, the soldiers left behind an orphaned child named Kriss to be raised by strangers. Treated more like a servant than an adopted son, feeling no real connection to the town, the boy grows up with one friend- the blacksmith’s daughter Anja.

When a monstrous sabercat comes down from the north, Anja’s mother is killed. Looking to ease his friend’s grief, Kriss hunts the huge cat… but this is no mere beast from his homeland. When Kriss kills it, not without some personal cost, the sabercat proves to be a vengeful spirit of his homeland…

And it has plans for the angry young man.

Smacking of Norse myth, Kriss, the Gift of Wrath embraces everything that makes those old stories great. There are no quick & easy solutions to anyone’s problems and every action, no matter how noble, has consequences. What Kriss has to discover for himself is the cost of revenge and how much of himself he’s willing to give up in return for the gifts offered by the spirit of the sabercat.

Anyone who’s read Norse mythology knows that these aren’t generally happy-go-lucky stories where the hero slays the bad guys and then gets the girl. The nice thing is that while Ted Naifeh is tapping into many of these elements, the berserker warriors of legend being front and center, he uses a writing style that isn’t all doom and gloom. His story is peppered with lighter moments to really get his reader primed for the horrors to come, so when it does get dark it hits with a punch that digs in deep. A more jaded reviewer might think that Naifeh could be looking to sucker his readers into a false sense of security, but I’m way more optimistic than that.

The art style used by Warren Wucinich can be every bit as deceptive as Naifeh’s narrative. If I were going to compare to anything, I’d say it has a look similar to Samurai Jack by Gendy Tartakovsky. And just like that animated action classic, Wucinich uses his outwardly simplistic style to great effect. Likewise, his colors add to the mood… where they might have been bright, he keeps the colors muted- but not dim- even in daylight. The shadows are heavy, the snow swept landscapes stark, making Kriss a book of sharp contrasts.

Kriss, the Gift of Wrath is a pretty fast read despite its graphic novel worthy page count. Naifeh & Wucinich work great together, with the narrative letting the fast-paced action tell its share of the story. If you’ve got a love myth & lore, this book (which could have easily served as a Young Conan story) might be just what you needed. I’m looking forward to what comes next.

Final Score: 8.5

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