It’s easy to forget, but the Valkyrie series is one of the best things to come out of War of the Realms. Jane Foster was relieved of her duties as Thor, but became something more after she beat cancer. The new series by Jason Aaron, Al Ewing, and Torunn GrØnbekk has been an exciting one, thrusting Foster into the role of defender of the Norse dead. In the latest trade paperback out this week, Foster also takes up the role of a medical doctor. Collecting Valkyrie: Jane Foster #6-10, Jane must save Death itself, team up with great heroes like Spider-Man and Captain America, and manage a very talkative equine sidekick.
The first two issues in the collection are a two part story involving Marvel’s greatest medical team as they attempt to save Death itself. Written by Aaron and Ewing, the story is creative, mixing in ideas that add up to what is basically proof you could pull off a superhero doctor team. There are trials to undertake, like a sea of pus, and an interesting key scene that forces each hero to see something quite dark from their pasts. This leads to some discovery for some and it’s fun to see how Valkyrie comes out on top.
There are thought-provoking elements at work here too, like, “Why even bother saving Death?” What is life without death? Understandably, the point is made that if nobody dies, wouldn’t this just be a cancerverse? Something from Jane’s past I actually didn’t know is brought up, further showing Jane has endured more loss and death than most. It’s a powerful element exceptionally highlighted with an incredible last full-page spread.
These first two issues are drawn by Pere Perez–who is doing exceptional work on Spider-Woman these days–with colors by Jesus Abertov. There are some interesting layout designs that make the realm look particularly weird and magical. The standout moment involves a boatman of a pus river that is revealed to be something else entirely. What we see is quite a grotesque thing when seen through Valkyrie’s eyes. The paintings the characters see that reveal truths about their pasts are quite well done, too. Again, the final full-page splash is quite pretty in its scary nature.
Following this is a three part story that seems to be about a threat like cancer, but soon we’re learning it’s a threat even Odin was wary of. Using the Avengers in the opener helps remind us Valkyrie is as powerful as they come and likely more powerful when it comes to healing. She is a doctor, after all. It’s also nice to see how her addiction to being a hero continues to develop here and it’s clear she’s made some progress since being Thor.
Jane’s attitude is infectious and fun, too. When she says, “I’m not a god, after all. I’m just the woman who sometimes saves them,” you will cheer. There’s also a nice reference or two to other characters in Jane’s life and a reminder she’s here to stay. She may be human, but gods who have lived for centuries know her power.
Cafu takes over with issue #8–the artist on the primo title Iron Man these days–who is incredibly good at atmospheric and disturbing imagery. The opening pages have a storybook feel that is mythical and creative. Next up is a scene with Jane at lunch that is casual, but never loses sight of the soul in the character’s eyes. When she eventually powers up as Valkyrie, she may not be a god, but she certainly looks the part. The use of yellow electricity is colored very well by Jesus Aburtov and the skin is stark white and godlike. The art team does well to capture the grandeur of Thor, the adventure of Captain America, and the weirdness of Spider-Man. Each character is heroic and epic in their look and feel.
A common issue with the stories in this collection is they feel like they are teetering on cancellation with every issue. Issue #7, for instance, seems to wrap up way too quickly, as if the story needed to abandoned.
In the hands of these creators, Valkyrie is one of the most exciting heroes in Marvel Comics. Her unique perspective, powers, and back story all add up to one of the more complex story arcs amongst heroes. Jane Foster has transformed more than once and it’s exciting to see how she develops even further, if Marvel does the right thing and continue this series.
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