MINI-SERIES REVIEWS...

cover #1Valkyrie!

(1988 - three issues, published by Eclipse Comics)

Writer: Chuck Dixon. Pencils: Brent Anderson. Inks: Enrique Villagran.

This was the second of two Valkyrie mini-series published by Eclipse (neither distinguished by a sub-title or anything -- though the first was collected as Valkyrie: Prisoner of the Past).

Valkyrie is, of course, the raven-haired adventuress and aviatrix of the legendary cleavage who first appeared as an occasional guest character in the old Airboy comics from the 1940s and 1950s (she's a former Nazi who reformed and joined the allies). When Eclipse revived Airboy in the 1980s, Valkyrie was brought along as a regular supporting character -- and spun-off into these solo projects. She's seen as appealing to female readers because she's a strong-willed heroine, and to male readers because of the earlier-mentioned cleavage.

In this series, by writer Dixon (the regular Airboy scribe) teamed with artist Brent Anderson, Valkyrie gets suspicious when a female friend disappears while auditioning for modelling work. This leads to a White Slave ring and mercenaries, but takes a turn towards the fantasy when it turns out the client for the kidnapped girls is a mysterious Dracula-like character who lives in a remote, snow-capped castle.

And it's a bit bland.

Oh, it's capably put together. Anderson's a fine artist, with a nice, realist style, and Villagran's inks complement him well enough. And Dixon's script trundles along with a kind of dogged efficiency.

But it never really leaps any bars -- or even lazily raises a boot over a bar. Dixon dots his Is and crosses his Ts -- but nothing more. For an 80 page story (the page numbering is consecutive, so the third issue begins with page 55) there isn't much in the way of surprises or unusual scenes, or even much characterization. After all is said and done, the main characters are simply Val, Mordecai (the villain) and Cowgirl -- the latter an underdressed villainess (who Val knows from the Airboy comics) who ends up throwing in her lot with Val. Sure, Valkyrie herself started out a Nazi, but it is a bit awkward asking us to accept Cowgirl as a kind of lovable rogue when she was, y'know, kidnapping women to sell them into slavery!

The story trundles along. Val becomes aware her friend has gone missing. She goes to the modelling office and coerces the information out of the guy there. She sneaks aboard the cargo vessel carrying the girls. Etc. It kind of plays out like a Dominos school of plotting. There's a climactic fight between Val and Mordecai's towering henchmen -- in a very James Bond sort of way. Except the henchman barely was a presence prior to the climactic fight!

There is the twist (at the end of the first issue) in that a story seeming fairly realist has, at its heart, a more gothic/supernatural villain -- except he proves to be pretty generic himself. There is a certain relaxedness to the pacing, the scenes themselves often feeling a bit longer than they need to be.

As a side point: part of Valkyrie's fame owes to her sex appeal. And Eclipse was a company that skirted around the edges (and outside) of the Comics Code. Yet they seemed a bit unsure how far they wanted to go.

So there is some occasional hard profanity, and the premise obviously has a certain luridness to it. Though that's it's own issue: is the premise supposed to be racy? Is there supposed to be a titillation factor to kidnapping women as potential sex slaves?

Visually Anderson is a good, realist artist, so certainly he can evoke beautiful women, yet he seems uncertain what he should be going for. Val has her trademark open shirt, and Cowgirl dresses in basically a buckskin bra and cut-off shorts, but the art isn't overtly cheesecakey. Like with the previous Valkyrie mini-series, there are a couple of explicit panels (Val showing part of her butt in bed, and Cowgirl having a "nip-slip" coming out of a pool) -- but it's only two panels in three issues. As with the previous series, I harp on it because it seems curious. To throw in just enough of that to make the comic not exactly family friendly -- yet not enough to actually make it a racy comic (yet it's not like those two panels are "necessary" to the plot).

In other words, it has some material you wouldn't expect to see in a mainstream super hero comic even as in 98% respects it is precisely what you'd expect in a mainstream comic.

This was the second (of two) Valkyrie solo series -- and both struck me as a bit dull. Part of that is a problem with Dixon's plotting, and partly maybe a lack of sure tone (it's too gritty to be swashbuckling fun, too swashbuckling to be gritty). But I suspect a problem is just Val herself. Defined more by her visual look than a personality I'm not sure (at least as envisioned here) she really had enough to carry a solo series. Heck, even Airboy himself wasn't maybe strong enough to carry a series on his own, because his comic often featured supporting characters -- like Valkyrie herself.

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