For those who know the writings of Max Landis, he not only embraces the conventions of whatever genre he tackles, but likes to mash them up. As all his scripts are about the mashup — they rise or fall based on this approach, whether it is the found-footage superhero flick that is Chronicle or the spy-meets-stoner action comedy of American Ultra. Landis applies the mashup sensibility to his comics, too, including the seven-issue miniseries Superman: American Alien, which brilliantly humanizes the titular character by presenting a tonal shift that varies from issue-to-issue, both artistically and narratively.
Stepping into the creator-owned zone that is Image, Landis’s nine-issue series Green Valley tells the adventures of the Knights of Kelodia who are the finest in the land, until one mistake destroys their home and reputation as legends. One year has passed, and the knights are approached by a young man whose village is being terrorized by a wizard who slays his dragons. Despite the initial reluctance of their leader Bertwald, the knights agree to embark on one last adventure as they head to the village of Green Valley, where magic supposedly exists… or may be something else.
From its initial issues, you are witnessing a story that we have seen many times: a pack of brothers-in-arms, once legendary warriors, who hope to redeem themselves from a previous failure. It does take its time in establishing the characters before we see some radical shift in tone, and yet even the numerous genre shifts throughout aren’t that original, especially when a character unintentionally (and clunkily) references recent pop culture.
However, it’s the characterization that keeps the whole thing engaging and surprising as Landis’s strength is his blend of drama and humor, even beyond the mixing of genres. From the bromance between Bertwald and Ralphus to the storytelling ramblings of Gulliver, there is a three-dimensionality to the medieval knights, with moments of wit and tragedy, even if one of the characters bites the dust early on. Even the unconventional reveal of the wizard and his dragons is refreshingly fun and adds a nice twist to the tropes of medieval fantasy.
Primarily known for penciling many issues of Dan Slott’s Spider-Man, Giuseppe Camuncoli is someone who can alter his art style dramatically depending on the project he’s illustrating. Collaborating with colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu, Green Valley features Camuncoli’s best work to date, presenting a rich and vibrant texture to this medieval setting that is not without its bloody moments, whilst providing stunning character designs that complement Landis’ word-heavy scripts.
Though it certainly doesn’t break any new ground in terms of genre-mashing, Green Valley is a typical Max Landis comic, and that’s a good thing. It largely works due to the witty character-driven adventures of the Knights of Kelodia.