Thorgal – one of the stranger, more enjoyable ones….
Thorgal Volume 11: The Invisible Fortress
By Jean Van Hamme and Grzegorz Rosinski
“Still travelling with Kris of Valnor, Thorgal runs afoul of a local tribe. When a mysterious old woman offers him a chance to escape the hostile villagers, he accepts. But there’s more to the bargain: She says that if he can make his way into the Invisible Fortress, he’ll be able to erase his name from the Stone of the Gods, cancelling his destiny—and finally have a chance at a normal life.”
Again, my ridiculous flip-flopping of opinion with Thorgal continues. I know I keep saying I should stop, keep promising myself, with each new and disappointing volume I read, that this will be my last. Except there’s obviously something beyond a guilt based desire to actually read all the things sent for review, something that does bring me back, something I’m actually getting out of Thorgal.
So here we are again….. and after last volume I wasn’t expecting all that much, here’s what I said then:
“And now, after Volume 10, I just think I might have finally had done with it. If Volume 9 felt like Van Hamme doing Thorgal by the numbers then this is simply Van Hamme phoning it in. The story doesn’t really amount to anything and throughout the volume it reads almost childishly, this happens, then this, then something else, then this again…. over and over, a parade of moments with none of the style or skill Van Hamme has shown himself supremely capable of in other stories and indeed in previous Thorgal volumes.”
And here, at least at the start, we’re on familiar(ish) ground – Thorgal is travelling, sharing a cosy barbarian’s retreat with the Lady Kriss, his sometime enemy, obviously madly infatuated with everyone’s favourite humanist barbarian. And of course, he manages to tick off another set of local barbarians – you can tell they’re barbarians – they’re the ugly ones compared to Thorgal’s manly yet sensitive look and Kriss’ seductive yet occasionally vulnerable look.
So far, so hmmm. I’m beginning to get that feeling again, of really not being all that bothered by what goes on. I know Thorgal sold in excess of 200k each volume, but it’s just not for me I’m afraid. That sort of “why do I read this again?” feel.
BUT, BUT, BUT….. About a third of the way through it sort of does that thing it did back in Volume 7, which had a weird time-travel plot going through it. And I find myself enjoying just that little bit of weirdness, as Thorgal and Kriss find themselves venturing into the blank whiteness of The Invisible Fortress, as seen on that very, very, attractive Rosinski cover. It’s not much, but it takes it out of the entrenched (and frankly, to my reading tastes, dull) realms of by the numbers sword & sorcery just enough to get my attention.
And that puts me in mind of a theory about the series. I’m thinking that I don’t really care that much for the episodes which veer too far into standard sword & sorcery stuff, as it’s just not something I’ve ever really enjoyed. But when it begins to veer a little bit into the weird, even when it’s simple a bit of weird capping off a whole heap of very little going on like it is here in The Invisible Fortress, I grab onto that difference and it’s just enough of a hook to raise the whole thing up.
As usual, the one thing I can’t really criticise at all is the artwork – Rosinski’s stuff is just lovely, really, really lovely. Even when I’m being a little bored by Van Hamme doing the latest twist in the Thorgal saga, he at least gives me something lovely to be looking at and most importantly to keep my attention – because if it wasn’t for Rosinski I’d probably be gone from Thorgal. Like I say, I know it’s beloved, I know so many people read it. But it’s just not me.