Slowly but surely, Marvel is opening their Robert E. Howard universe of characters. They started with Belit, and this week, Valeria gets the trade paperback treatment. Valeria is another character who lives in Conan’s universe and in fact has an origin that’s an interesting twist on Conan’s. Born during war, Valeria ends up losing her family and is forced to move in with her brother. She learns the way of the sword but holds a great desire to seek revenge for her parents’ deaths by the hands of pillagers and also the death of her brother. This volume captures her adventure as she learns who killed her father while also mixing in a childhood love she had for a man who isn’t quite what she thinks.
Generally speaking, this is a good first try with Valeria, but it is a bit light on adventure and action. The first issue does spring for extra action and interesting character wrinkles, but midway through it begins to be clear Valeria is more interested in figuring out her brother’s death. It’s a slightly odd turn since so much is made of her parents being killed, but I suppose that’s an adventure for another day. By the end of the book, you’ll certainly feel like you understand Valeria’s place in the world–she’s basically alone and ready for action–but will be wishing you got more of the action.
Much of this book is about Valeria’s brother, who is rich but gains that wealth in a way that’s not becoming of a hero. It also ties in a childhood crush of Valeria’s of a man who ends up popping up later in her life. The problem is her brother and this ex-crush, all end up getting a twist that’s impossible to guess at. You’re simply forced to believe it all without any of the discovery. Many issues collected here end up reading like writer Meredith Finch was forced to add some punching and kicking so as to meet a quota. Again, save for some good action in the first issue, this is mostly a slow burn so don’t expect much.
The art by Aneke with color by Andy Troy is strong in depicting the lands and locations. Valeria is expressive and well-drawn too. You’ll believe this series belongs in the same universe as Conan.
I expected more from this series, but as the first swing at Valeria, it does get us acquainted with her. It’s just unfortunate the real adventure won’t start till the next series is released — if it ever comes.