Monday, June 10, 2019

"Vengeance!" Cries The Valkyrie!

After reviewing the tragic saga of Barbara Norris, whose "as a lark" involvement with a cult of the Undying Ones led to imprisonment, surrender, madness, and suppression before finally finding peace, the resolution of Barbara's story has led us to the rebirth of Brunnhilde*, the Valkyrie, and awakened a thirst for vengeance against the sorceress who was responsible for holding her captive and using her as a pawn in her schemes. And now, in the company of the Defenders and restored at long last to her true body, the Valkyrie locks eyes with the Enchantress and issues a challenge for which she will brook no refusal.

*Up until now, writer J.M. DeMatteis has been spelling the Valkyrie's name as "Brunnhilde"--though with co-plotter Mark Gruenwald** coming aboard this issue and doing some of the scripting, the spelling now shifts to "Brunnhilda" for whatever reason. In point of fact, the spelling of the Valkyrie's name has been sundry, depending on the source material (e.g., Brynhildr, Brunhild, Brunhilde, Brünhild, and heaven knows how many other variations are included in accounts); but since a majority of Marvel forums list it as "Brunnhilde," that spelling will be used here for the sake of consistency.

**I wasn't aware of Gruenwald's scripting assist at the time, but while re-reading this story for the PPC I found myself thinking, "Gee, DeMatteis is sounding a lot like Mark Gruenwald in places"--i.e., more verbose, explanatory dialog than DeMatteis would typically offer. Needless to say that spotting Mr. Gruenwald's name in the scripting credits produced a slow nod of acknowledgment.

Given the extent of her power and that she's more than proven her resourcefulness in past battles, it might be fair to presume that the Enchantress holds the edge here; as long as she doesn't allow the Valkyrie to close with her, her spells allow her to strike from a distance and either contain or affect the Valkyrie in any number of ways. How would you like noodles for arms, Brunnhilde? What about temporary blindness? Your sword turning against you? Just the tip of the iceberg of options available to the Enchantress, any one of which would prove to be sufficient distraction (or worse) that would render her foe helpless to evade the killing stroke.

But try telling that to the Valkyrie in her current mood.

With Dr. Strange and the others devoting their efforts to occupying the harpies that were guarding the formerly prone body of the Valkyrie, so that they don't rush to the aid of the Enchantress, Brunnhilde has a fair shot at delivering her promised vengeance against her former "jailer." And as far as the distance advantage that the Enchantress enjoys, that gap may be closing sooner than the sorceress believes.

With the Valkyrie disarmed, the Enchantress has the opening she had been waiting for to attack offensively and more directly. The Valkyrie is able to move quickly enough to offset that advantage--but when the Enchantress finds herself suddenly seized by the woman who has sworn her death, she makes a desperate, defensive counter-gesture--and the tide suddenly turns in her favor.

Meanwhile, at least a part of the battle against the Enchantress is won by the other Defenders, who discover that the sorceress's penchant for changing the form of others and conscripting them to do her will isn't limited to the Valkyrie.

As for the principal opponents in this conflict, the Valkyrie's glance catches an object that could not only allow her to prevail, but also to provide her vengeance against the Enchantress with a touch of poetic justice.

The Defenders indeed depart--with the exception of one, who makes her way to the royal palace to confront a god whom she feels has wronged her, or, perhaps more to the point, neglected. That person is Odin, who disbanded the Valkyrior following his pact with the Celestials and left Brunnhilde to her fate at the hands of the Enchantress. It's news to me that the Valkyries selected their dead from mortal battlefields as well as Asgardian, to then be placed within the ranks of the Einherjar--but DeMatteis (Gruenwald?) makes it the very linchpin of Odin's reason for taking the Valkyries out of circulation and, by extension, letting Brunnhilde slip off of his radar.

Brunnhilde's frustration is apparent, with Odin having no answers to give her, no explanation for his turning a virtual cold shoulder toward her welfare. While it's true that the Celestials indeed occupied much of his thinking at the time, he also raises a fair point that he felt snubbed by her refusal to rejoin the reassembled Valkyrior.

Each has a grievance--and each feels the loss of separation. And in their goodbyes, there is no forgiveness in the traditional sense--no words to clear the slate, or mollify centuries of silence. There is only the parting, and the cloud of near-estrangement that hovers over each of them.

I could be mistaken, but the scene feels entirely handled by DeMatteis, who often gets to the heart of a matter and exposes it bare for all to see. Isn't it odd that a rift with nearly 1,000 years of irresolution is dealt with in an exchange which has played out in practically the same way as we'd see it addressed between two mortals, who by comparison would have been separated only a tenth of the time that applied to Odin and Bruunhilde. Yet while you and I might have parted with words mixed with anger and sadness filling the air, these two have instead reached an impasse of civility--no formal forgiveness, but instead an acknowledgement of the tragic missteps which were taken, and the loss that neither can set right. Perhaps as meaningful a truce as can be found in the halls of Asgard.

This issue's cover, by artist Al Milgrom.


Big Murr said...

A trivial response to a pair of fine posts, but I am focussing on Valkyrie's costume. The original pseudo-Norse armour-ish design suited her very well. This gold and white body leotard is a total snooze. Just another spandex super suit.

But I'm even more curious about Val's spear. Last post showed her inaugural return, complete with the spear of power she used to good effect against the Avengers (flattening Goliath and Vision with one power blast). Did this sequence explain at any point where the spear went and why she took up the Ebony Blade (and later Dragonfang). That spear would have been so much more versatile for comic book battles than Valkyrie constantly hitting enemies with "the flat of her blade".

Comicsfan said...

Murray, Val will be back in her original threads soon enough, once she returns to the Defenders (and with thanks to Hellcat); she was battling in her white/gold costume here because that's what she had been wearing when Barbara (in her body) was dragged down to Niflheim. As for the spear, it was apparently discarded at some point during the battle against Casiolena and the Executioner--and with the Black Knight becoming, ah, inert in that story as well, she gravitated toward both his winged horse and his powerful sword, both sound choices.

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