Heathen by Natasha Alterici, Rachel Deering – Review

Book Jacket:

From critically acclaimed creator Natasha Alterici (Gotham Academy) comes an Nordic fantasy adventure that defies conventions and expectations. Aydis is a viking, a warrior, an outcast, and a self-proclaimed heathen. Aydis is friend to the talking horse Saga, rescuer of the immortal Valkyrie Brynhild, and battler of demons and fantastic monsters. Aydis is a woman. Born into a time of warfare, suffering, and subjugation of women, she is on a mission to end the oppressive reign of the god-king Odin. Collects the first four sold-out issues!


Viking adventure? Check. Gay protagonist? Check. Gods, monsters, myths, and magic? Quadruple check.

Why hello, gorgeous.

As I was reading this trade, I just kept thinking: oh I like this, I really, really like this. In short, this story is just FUN. Sweeping, ambitious, and well grounded by a down-to-earth protagonist, who has a firmly rooted sense of identity, this isn’t a story about things happening to a girl, or being done to her, or her reacting in response to men’s stories – this is a story about a girl DOING. Period. Full stop, bar none. And that made for a delightful read.

Plus, the art! It’s striking, bold, the hues gorgeously rich – and it must be said, as someone who never really outgrew her childhood obsession with all things equine – the HORSES. Oh, the horses are gorgeous. Really, this book had me from the first horse.

I did find, however, towards the later end of the trade – when the story split off the protagonists so as to give them separate adventures – for me, a bit of impetus was lost. Now narratively speaking, I understand why the writer did that – in terms of broadening the scope of a world and mythology, it’s much easier to do when you have people riding off in different directions. But for me, we were just getting somewhere delightfully interesting, with Aydis and Brunhild joining forces, and with the reveal of  the magic of Aydis’ horse, and then to suddenly have them be torn apart and shot off on completely different trajectories – for me, the story lost something. And then going forward, I found my interest split in a lopsided way – as Brunhild’s travails on her own were of decidedly less interest to me than Aydis’ adventures – and frankly, much as I enjoy watching Aydis adventuring and throwing down like a boss, I do think she would have been better served with a foil, or companion, for her journey. A Gabrielle to her Xena. Because without that, and without the chance to really see all our characters bond and form a unit (which would then allow us to vitally care about them all – and about them all getting back together), I think overall some emotional investment was squandered. But really, with art this gorgeous and mythology this fun, that’s just a quibble – because I am firmly on board for the long haul with this one.

Honestly, who can resist a tale of a girl, her magic horse, a forbidden kiss, and a god in need of rescue? And why on earth would you want to? Heathen, Vol 1 collects this first four issues, and makes for a very solid beginning to what promises to be a downright epic adventure story. Definitely pick this one up.

Byrt Grade: A-

As Levar Burton likes to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Comic Bastards say:

Hot take alert: Natasha Alterici is the real deal.

AV Club says:

Alterici does exceptional work making Aydis a relatable character and creating empathy for her struggle. Through Aydis, Alterici makes an important statement about not letting anyone define who you are.