Note: because I didn't want to spoil any big things, this review may or may not be a bit weird in the middle. Sorry for that.
Vinland Saga is an epic tale written by Makoto Yukimura, whom you might know from the manga (or the anime adaption) Planetes.
The premise of Vinland Saga, however, will remind lots of people of Berserk rather than Planetes : in a medieval setting, a young fighting prodigy by the name of Thorrfin joins a gang of Viking mercenaries. The reason for joining the gang is a little odd though: Thorrfin wants to kill Askeladd, the leader of the gang, to exact vengeance for the death of his father, Thors. Thorfinn does Askeladd's bidding to earn the right to a duel, because he wants to kill him in a fair fight. And by "doing his bidding", of course I mean killing countless people. So yeah, the part where they brutally kill anyone they see is also a part where Thorfinn is comparable to his "older brother" Guts.
I will end the comparison with Berserk there, because Vinland Saga takes an entirely different road: it follows the road of Planetes, and decides to be "realistic" (there are of course times where the limits of human strength are completely ignored, but not in a way that it gets too crazy for a manga like this). This realism, in combination with the violent nature of lots of the acts in the story, gives a lot of strong feelings of semi-disgust at what humans are capable of. Because after all, the main focus isn't the blood, but the acts of those who made people shed blood.
And then we see our main character, looking at it passively, or actively taking part in the atrocities if it will get him closer to killing Askeladd. He is a wrecked man, lost his humanity, and only has vengeance, killing and death left in his life. He doesn't care who or what burns or dies, simply walks past his "comrades" (he doesn't see them as such, but they're in the same gang) raping women. He'd kill anyone, and I found myself looking at him thinking "... I'm supposed to like this guy?"
On the other hand, we have his nemesis: Askeladd, the epitome of what any Viking would want as a leader: strong, intelligent, calculating, and just all-around powerful. HE is the guy one could most easily root for, because Askeladd too has goals in his life. Of course he does! After all, the best part about Vinland Saga isn't even the great storyline: it's the way all characters come to life. No Viking is portrayed as a demon, nor are they supermen: they are all just guys who have been hardened by their tough lifestyle, and pillage to live. When it comes to the main and important secondary characters, there are two choices: they develop, or they die before they can develop.
Speaking of development: any review about Vinland Saga will probably have to address that arc. The arc after the big plot twist at the end of the prologue (which i won't spoil here, of course). The arc of the farmlands, where Thorfinn changes. For anybody who hasn't read VS: don't worry, it isn't as weird as it sounds. For those who did read it: I read the 121 chapters that are out now in one sitting, and the arc was great. It may have felt slow reading it one chapter a month, but the development happening in this arc was really great. Having an arc that is less focused on fighting and more on character development isn't bad!
Oh well, I guess I'll end my review by talking about the artwork then: and the art... is great as well! I'll give some samples here:
Look at these gulls!
So yeah, the artwork is great too. I doubt there are many artist who could do better than this.
Story: 8.5/10 great, compelling story; pacing is good except for the somewhat slower farming arc
Characters: 10/10 I don't see how this could be done any better.
Art: 9/10 Doesn't get much better than this
Overall: 9.2/10 Great read!
Final note: Vinland Saga is a monthly series, and will probably become quite lengthy. So it will probably be a very long time until we get to see it end. However, I personally feel that this shouldn't discourage you to read it, because it worth all the time you give it!