Thorgal volume 5: The Land of Qa/The Eyes of Tanatloc


By Rosiński & Van Hamme, translated by Luke Spear (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-80-9 (Album PB)

One of the very best and most celebrated fantasy adventure series ever created, Thorgal deftly accomplishes the seemingly impossible: pleasing critics and selling in vast quantities.

The prototypical Game of Thrones saga debuted in iconic weekly Le Journal de Tintin in 1977 with album compilations beginning three years later. The far-reaching, expansive generational saga has won a monolithic international following in numerous languages and dozens of countries, generating a flotilla of spin-off series, and thus naturally has found a strong presence in the field of global gaming.

In story-terms, Thorgal offers the best of all weird worlds, with an ostensibly historical setting of bold Viking adventure seamlessly incorporating science fiction elements, magic, horrendous beasts, social satire, political intrigue, soap opera, Atlantean legends and mythically mystical literary standbys such as gods, monsters and devils.

Created by Belgian writer Jean Van Hamme (Domino, XIII, Largo Winch, Blake and Mortimer) and Polish illustrator Grzegorz Rosiński (Kapitan Żbik, Pilot Śmigłowca, Hans, The Revenge of Count Skarbek), the feature grew unstoppably over decades. The creative duo co-completed 29 albums between 1980 and 2006 when Van Hamme moved on. Scripting duties fell to Yves Sente who collaborated on a further five collections until 2013.

In 2016, Xavier Dorison wrote one and in 2018 Yann (Yannick Le Pennetier) another, after which the latter remained as scripter whilst Rosiński took a break with Fred Vigaux illustrating 2019’s L’Ermite de Skellingar: the 37th tome in the sequence…

By the time Van Hamme departed, the canon had grown to cover not only the life of the titular hero and his psionically-gifted son Jolan, but also other indomitable family and cast members through a number of spin-offs (Kriss de Valnor, Louve, La Jeunesse de Thorgal), gathered under the umbrella title Les Mondes de Thorgal – with each eventually winning their own series of solo albums.

In 1985, American publisher Donning released a brief but superb series of oversized hardcover book translations but Thorgal never really found an English-speaking audience until Cinebook began its own iteration in 2007.

What Has Gone Before: As a baby Thorgal was recovered from a ferocious storm at sea and raised by Northern Viking chief Leif Haraldson. Nobody could possibly know the fortunate foundling had survived an interstellar incident which destroyed a starship full of super-scientific aliens…

Growing to manhood, the strange boy was eventually forced out of his adopted land by ambitious Gandalf the Mad who feared the young warrior threatened his own claim to the throne. For his entire childhood, Thorgal had been inseparable from Gandalf’s daughter Aaricia and, as soon as they were able, they fled together from the poisonous atmosphere to live free from her father’s lethal jealousy and obsessive terror of losing his throne…

Danger was always close but after many appalling hardships, the lovers and their new son finally found a measure of cautious tranquillity by occupying a small island where they could thrive in safety…

The original series wanders back and forth through the hero’s life and Cinebook’s fifth double-album edition (comprising 10th epic Le pays Qâ and sequel saga #11 Les Yeux de Tanatloc from 1986, and available in both paperback and digital formats) reveals how Thorgal Aegirsson’s dreams of a life of splendid and secure isolation are forever ended by an old enemy…

The Land of Qa opens in the deepest winter as Thorgal and Aaricia’s island home is invaded by a band of mercenaries. The warrior and his wife are hosting new friends Argun Tree Foot and his tempestuous nephew Tjall the Fiery but the idyllic holiday ends in rage and humiliation as vicious pirates abduct the aged armourer and Jolan.

Before the enraged father can head after them, he is intercepted by a former acquaintance: ruthless thief Kriss of Valinor. She has taken a profitable commission and ensured Thorgal’s assistance despite their past animosities and potential objections. Gloatingly enjoying the upper hand, Kriss even acquiesces when Aaricia forcefully insists on coming with them…

The situation escalates into madness when Kriss’ allies/clients arrive, sailing a boat through the winter skies, held aloft by a series of vast balloons. Jolan and Tree Foot are already far out at sea, in a more conventional vessel, but their ultimate destination is anything but familiar…

Aboard the sky-ship, Thorgal and his companions, having been rendered unconscious by alien technology, are given a subliminal history lesson by a high priest of the distant Land of Qa – a region resembling pre-Columbian Central America. Since his own memories of his alien origins have been suppressed, the astounding tale of two warring men of godlike power who elevated savage primitives into warriors able to subjugate a continent means nothing to Thorgal…

He has no conception that he is the son of one of those pale deities and grandson of the other. All he knows is that he must steal the magic mask of one of them for the other, and his despised partner-in-crime Kriss cannot be trusted…

The mission seems doomed from the start. As Jolan and Tree Foot are unceremoniously marooned in a strange, arid land by their captors, far away and high above them the sky-ship is ambushed by enemy vessels. The horrific skirmish leaves Thorgal, Aaricia, Tjall and Kriss stranded in wild jungles miles from their target-destination: the imperial city of Mayaxatl and the almighty Ogatai who is their destined victim…

Compounding the crisis, Jolan and Tree Foot have also discovered a lost city. Xinjin is the capital of Ogatai’s puissant alien enemy, and holds secrets that somehow trigger strangely familial intuitions in Thorgal’s psychically precocious son…

And in the lush jungles, the father too experiences unwelcome premonitions and vague memories of people he has never met…
The saga continues – but does not conclude – in The Eyes of Tanatloc as the distanced and separated family works to reunite, driven by unknown and inexpressible forces. After endlessly battling horrific beasts, enduring and defeating deadly swamps and the perils of their own motivations, Thorgal’s party finally escapes the green hell and begins their assault on Mayaxatl. It has left them all exhausted and changed…

All the while, in Xinjin, dying Tanatloc has been subtly training little Jolan, trying to explain to his wary descendent the nature of the powers they share and their unearthly origins. The tutelage is sadly wasted, as high priest Variay subverts and derails his God’s efforts for his own reasons and with the intention of installing the boy as the new god-king of Xinjin…

To be Concluded…

A rousing generational fantasy epic, Thorgal is every fantasy fan’s ideal dream of unending adventure: by turns ingenious, expansive, fierce, funny, phenomenally gripping and incredibly complex. this cunningly crafted, astonishingly addictive tale offers a keen insight into the character of a true, if exceedingly reluctant, hero and the waves he makes in a fabulous forgotten world. What fanatical fantasy aficionado could possibly resist such barbaric blandishments?
Original editions © Rosiński & Van Hamme 1986, Les Editions du Lombard (Dargaud-Lombard SA). English translation © 2009 Cinebook Ltd.