There are some stories that hit an emotional core with audiences generation after generation. They are comfortable to retell and inherently interesting to revisit and play with. Some like Seven Samurai are modern classics, others like Shakspears’s Romeo and Juliet have been around for centuries.
None, however, is older than Beowulf. It may not be as familiar to modern audiences as Romeo and Juliet but it is a story that has been retold over and over since around 900 A.D. Set in Scandinavia, Beowulf is an archetypal hero who is legendary for his feats of strength. He is called upon to aid Hrothgar, the king of the Danes, whose castle is being attacked by the monster Grendle. Grendle has been stalking the halls of the castles at night, devouring whomever he comes across.
Cryowulf is a blending of science fiction and epic fantasy in the tradition of Dune that uses Beowulf as its structure. Instead of a dark and dreary castle, Grendel stalks the inhabitants of a massive old space station.
The artwork is lovely. Ben Matsuya’s use of smooth lines, lots of round curves and bright colors brings the fantasy element to the forefront. You can feel what seems to be influences of Tim Hildebrandt and Kelly Freas in the work. Much like Hildebrandt’s work on J.R.R Tolkien’s Middle Earth tales, Matsuya captures the bright side of the story but not the darkness. The gritty, tattered world of the space station isn’t represented as well in the art. But, the work is beautiful and it feels like nitpicking to point this out.
The first issue works hard to build this world up. There is an epic feel here, with established lineages and cultures all coming together in an intriguing fashion. As fascinating as this story seems to be the amount of world building is to the detriment of the tale. There are too many details and names thrown at the reader that getting through it feels like a bit of a slog at times. That said, the issue ends with a great sequence that drips tension and terror akin to the first two Alien movies. Clearly the creators are capable of compelling storytelling.
Overall: This could be something truly awesome – it’s just too early to tell. If the clunky world building gives way to more fluid storytelling I will read the entire run of this comic happily. There is certainly a great concept here and a lot of work has been put into realizing it. I will eagerly be awaiting the next issue of Cryowulf to find out.
You can find out more about Crowulf below:
You can purchase issues here: www.samroads.co.uk