Millennium – Volume 4 – The Girl Who Danced With Death – Chapter 1
Sylvain Runberg (Writer), Belen Ortega (Artist), Phillipe Glogowski (Letters), Rachel Zerner (Translator)
August 15, 2018
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Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy gets new life with a graphic novel continuation series from Titan Comics. The Girl Who Danced With Death follows Larsson’s protagonists, hacktivist Lisbeth Salander and investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist, on new and more dangerous capers.
Salander is on a mission to hack into the Swedish Secret Service’s high-tech data centre. When her hacktivist friend Trinity is kidnapped by the very people she is looking into, Salander becomes more determined, secluding herself on an island to concentrate on getting through the encryptions. Meanwhile, Blomkvist is desperately trying to shut down Sten Windoff, a dangerously racist and misogynistic political party leader, whose party is getting much more support than it should. Blomkvist knows Windoff has shady dealings, he just needs the resources to find enough to bury him.
It just so happens that during Salander’s search through the dark web, she comes across something that may point Blomkvist in the right direction. But Blomkvist’s colleagues at his Millennium magazine don’t want Salander involved. With death threats piling up against the magazine and Blomkvist himself, he needs to make a difficult choice.
The first thing I noticed when reading this book was how fast-paced it was. Every panel moves the story along swiftly, not one is wasted. The book is quite exposition-heavy, but the exposition is given almost entirely through dialogue, not narration, which speeds up the reading. Despite its length—60 pages—this book can easily be read in under 20 minutes.
It helps that the dialogue is well-written. There were only a few moments when I felt that it was a bit clunky and hard to read. But for the most part, the translation by Rachel Zerner from Swedish to English is excellent. Though the dialogue is good, I found the actual speech bubbles very odd. They aren’t drawn in even shapes, like in most comic books, but instead come in a variety of shapes. Even when they are circular, they look like they have been hand-drawn, so they’re just misshapen enough to distract you. I’m not sure what the thinking was behind this but it would occasionally take me out of the reading experience.
I like that writer Sylvain Runberg put the reader in the middle of the action, without much introduction. This technique doesn’t always work, but it does here. You do not need to know the characters immediately or what is at stake; you go along with the flow, and the information you need is given to you when it is needed. I personally liked this approach, because it means you do not need reference points from the original trilogy or the film adaptations. You can pick up this volume and enter this world without needing much background, which is great.
What I didn’t like, unfortunately, was the way this volume meandered towards its final pages. There is no real resolution here or even an attempt at a conclusion. The amount of information that is available to the reader in this book is just that, information, with nothing to apply it to. It eventually feels like a filler book, because it goes nowhere and does nothing. And, that is really disappointing. I was so enjoying reading it, and it just ended.
The art of the book feels very pared back, which works for the setting and the subject matter. Belen Ortega does a good job in invoking a sense of place. A lot of mainstream comics are set in the US, and it might have been easier to Anglicize the buildings a little, but she lets Sweden take the limelight in this book, which is a welcome change.
The muted colours took some getting used to, I have to admit. They work within the context of the story and the setting, but the pages of this book often look almost desaturated, which feels like overkill. Yes, this is likely going to be a bleak story—the mature rating gives that away—but does the colour have to be washed out as well? A pop of colour here and there would have livened things up, especially as the majority of the story is set in summer.
This lack of colour also makes an appearance in Ortega’s variant cover, which, had I seen earlier, would have given me an inkling of what to expect inside. Claudia Ianniciello’s cover featuring a rather vivacious Lisbeth Salander staring right at the reader with the city ablaze with colour behind her doesn’t quite give you the right impression; however, it is an attractive enough cover to have caught my eye. Ianniciello got the results, so I’m not complaining.
My thoughts on this book are divided. I enjoyed reading it and found it to be a real page-turner, but the lack of denouement was a letdown. Should you read this book? Yes, but be prepared to wait a while before the next volume is released for a more complete reading experience.