Once again, the Marvel Comics Universe admits a character more closely resembling a Marvel Cinematic Universe character into its fold in the form of Rūna, a Tessa Thompson-inspired Valkyrie with experience of the sort of deep-space adventurism seen in Thor: Ragnarok.
SPOILERS AHEAD FOR The Mighty Valkyries: All Hel Let Loose!
Initially introduced in King in Black, where she was reawakened from an unnatural dreamlike death state, not quite fully aware of her own history, it’s here in All Hel Let Loose that Rūna learns her name and some hints as to her new purpose in the cosmos.
This, of course, is only the B-story of the book; our main narrative continues the ever-epic story of Jane Foster as she continues to tumble into Asgardian malarkey. The malarkey this time involves Loki’s big wolfy grandson, Mánagmar, who’s running around the city, and the seemingly unhealthy marriage of Hela and Karnilla, the latter of whom has secreted away stolen triplets she has imbued with magic.
You know, just normal Asgard stuff. The oddity of enslaved, cosmic seers and uppity talking horses are, honestly, pretty low-key in terms of weirdness in comparison to Jane Foster’s continuing adventures.
Co-written by long-time Foster-pilot Jason Aaron and recent Foster-fabulist Torunn Grønbekk, with Grønbekk taking full duties of the Rūna story, the narrative never missteps. Both writers have the characters’ true voices and tones in mind, and their best interests at heart. It feels as if Jane, after her ascension from support to lead character in Mighty Thor, has retained a sense of beloved importance, a character that needs to be kept away from the sullying hands of uninvested creators so that she might continue to grow into the character she deserves to be.
I’ve written before about how Jane’s mortality and basic humanity places her at a perfect counter-balance to the timeless Asgardian machine, and The Mighty Valkyries hammers home that it’s not just that mortality but also her honest human morality that makes her the perfect POV foil to the Asgardians. With eternity at their backs, the Asgardian gods have a different vantage of morality. It might make perfect sense to steal three babies and give them godlike power — after all, the original parents will be gone in a blink of an Asgardian eye. Those parents, then, need Jane Foster.
Jane’s role as Valkyrie, then, is to be the human watchdog to the gods — the human reasoning loaned to the unknowable.
More importantly — and perhaps more defining for Jane herself — is her job providing guidance to the recently dead. It’s a job that’s been held by a handful of Marvel characters before, including likewise-mortal Dani Moonstar, but those characters were not medical professionals who have taken the Hippocratic Oath. Jane, like all humankind, is struggling to reconcile the need to protect and nurture life and to allow its inevitable end.
It’s this internal struggle that informs her decisions, here and in all the Jane Foster: Valkyrie stories, however distantly, and it’s what makes her such a compelling character to read. The addition of Rūna as a sort of occasional supporting act only allows for further context for Jane herself; Rūna, one of the first Valkyries at the dawn of Asgard, is far more concerned with cosmic and ethereal concerns than Jane might be able to be. This makes their coming together, at the end of this volume, all the more satisfying and deserved. Struggling against dead gods over mortal children — the very avatar of life itself — is the joint definition of what it means to be these two Valkyries.
All of these major and minor themes are elevated, then, by the artwork of Mattia de Luis and Erica D’Urso. de Luis’ hyper-real renderings of the human face hammer home the base humanity of the Jane Foster story, revealing honest emotional turmoil even from the goddesses of Hel and the big shaggy wolf boy. This is in contrast to D’Urso’s more dynamic style that is more interested in the clean lines of action of Rūna’s story, which takes place in an idea- and concept-heavy outer space and requires a lighter, more airy and conceptual flow. The balance between the two only illustrates the contrast between our two Valkyries all the better.
All Hel Let Loose is a book that cements these characters and themes as a mission statement for any further stories, as it insists that those stories continue. It’s beautiful, thoughtful, and it leaves readers yearning; a rare thing, indeed.
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