Millennium: the Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest #1 Review
Written by Sylvain Runberg
Art by José Homs
Letters by Phillipe Glogowski
Translated by Rachel Zerner
Reviewed by Lee Henry (@Lee_H_Henry on Twitter)
Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series has always been defined by one theme: secrets. His characters hide things banal and critical from one another, from serial killers to journalists to his iconic heroine, Lisbeth Salander. Sylvain Runberg and José Homs’ graphic novel adaption of the third Millennium novel, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, perfectly understands the pain and violence that come from keeping secrets, and in the first of six issues, that violence spills out into every corner of Salander’s world.
In the finale of The Girl Who Played with Fire, Salander disappeared after a gruesome battle with her father, the villainous Zalachenko, and pain-immune half-brother Ronald Niedermann. Their farmhouse brawl made national news, and Salander is now the most wanted person in Sweden. Lisbeth’s ex-lover (and last remaining supporter) Mikael Blomkvist continues to protest her innocence of the multiple murders she’s been accused of, and is preparing an exposé into the identity of Salander’s father, a Cold War asset managed by The Section, a mysterious cabal formed from rogue government and SaPo (Swedish Secret Police) elements. But unbeknownst to Blomkvist, Zalachenko has gone rogue from The Section, and these powerful men now have a mess to clean up.
Homs’ art perfectly establishes the tone of paranoia and impending violence that pervades Salander’s story; his work on the albino giant Niedermann in particular stands out, making what was a mildly intimidating lackey in the books a terrifying, vengeful force. You feel horror each time he takes another life, and when the two meet (and brawl) in person toward the end of the issue, it’s a massive, world-altering clash. The characters throughout are just stylized enough to make them distinguishable without sacrificing the book’s serious, thrilling tone. Mysterious men or journalists conversing makes up a large portion of the book, yet these opaque conversations ratchet up the tension just as much as the periodic bursts of violence. When blood IS shed, Homs perfectly captures the visceral blows of fists or explosions of bullets.
Runberg has some hard choices to make here, as condensing the convoluted third novel invariably means leaving out some key moments. However, what Runberg gets out of removing several early plot elements in favor of a slow-burn set-up is a profound sense of dread; as The Section slowly, methodically rebuilds itself, exerts its strength, and ties up loose ends, we feel the weight of the machinery mobilizing against the waif-like, hopelessly outmatched Lisbeth. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is not the fast-paced thriller or revenge saga of its predecessors: it’s a sprawling, conspiracy-ridden ode to the power we give to those willing to do in the dark what we can’t in the light. And Runberg and Homs make it clear in this first issue that Salander’s quest to hold accountable the men who ruined her life will be fraught with pain, fear, and blood.
VERDICT: Worth a look if you’re a fan of the Millennium series (in any form) or want a dark, intense mystery