Ragnarök #1 Review – Walt Simonson returns to Norse Mythology!

In the 1980’s, it took Walt Simonson nearly 4 years of plotting to get Thor in front of the Midgard Serpent. The newly released Ragnarök accomplishes the same feat on the cover of issue #1, and reading any of Simonson’s runs will tell you things will only escalate from there!

Eat your heart out, Superman #75

I can safely say I’ve not been this excited for a new comic series in a long time, although in many ways IDW’s new comic feels more like a homecoming. For me, there is simply no comics run better than Simonson’s Thor. No other run in history has been so profoundly innovative in pushing its characters and the comics medium to new territory, while at the same time remaining reverent of its storied history that has come before (from real Norse mythology to Thug Thatcher!). The run started with a bang, ended with a smile (along with a playful breaking of Loki’s arm), and proved that if you give Walt Simonson a box of toys to play with, he’ll make you realize you were really holding his box all along (something Simonson continued to prove afterwards with his subsequent runs on Fantastic Four and Orion).

And here we are again; Walt’s been given a very familiar box of toys to play with, and even as we begin, we feel the impending shift in status quo. The comic’s opening page is Ragnarök through and through, right out of the Prose Edda; volcanoes and war erupting, Fenrir attacking Odin with Gungnir held high, and what I assume to be this world’s Heimdall and Loki locked in combat; a fight that lore tells us will destroy them both. Turning the page, the event gets even bigger, with a double spread of the Midgard Serpent with a comparatively small Thor getting ready to battle. Before long, the battle is over, and the world is cast into darkness to allow for the real story to begin.

Ragnarök #1 holds back on revealing too much too quickly, however does give us quite a bit to talk about. We meet a loving family of Black Elf assassins (complete with what I hope will become a very “Hilde-esque” little girl named Drifa), to which the woman Brynja (Old Norse for coat of mail) rides off to accept a mission from a likely-more-than-meets-the-eye figure named Myrkr (Old Norse for dark). Within the act of our character and setting introductions, we also learn that terminology in Ragnarök will run deep with additional meaning and ties to mythology. Reverence and innovation; just as before.

We also see Simonson continue his trend of actively balancing writer/artist duties by incorporating both into the storytelling process; selectively breaching panel borders to highlight movement, and sizing panels to highlight time and distance like he’s done many times before (and it never gets old). One page even blends three different concepts into one cohesive meaning; taking a text conversation between guards, a reduction of guards in panels, and Brynja riding forward on a horse to relay how Brynja is as deadly as she is beautiful. Simonson can tell a good story, but equally important is the ways in which he tells them.

Joining Simonson in his return to the Thor mythos is also returning letterer John “KRAKA-DOOM” Workman, whose own contributions to the Thor run should never go unnoticed. Workman is already proving to earn his pay; I counted 6 different font styles showing up in issue #1 alone. Along for the ride on coloring duties is colorist Laura Martin whose work I’m not too familiar with (outside of Planetary), although I’m finding her choices highly suitable to Simonson’s inks in ways that avoid clutter and confusion. All in all, this is a great team to expect great things from.

I’m not really in the habit of reviewing individual comic books, but Ragnarök has got me pumped. I’ve read through it 3 times already; each time finding a new corner to pick apart; being a tie to myth, or a potential plot point to come. Not wanting to post too many scans, I’ll leave you with the penultimate panel depicting the location Brynja and her team of assassins have discovered (Brynja is the highlighted one at the front – again a smart coloring choice by Martin).

Orion-sized scaling, secretive foreshadowing, or both?

The number 9 is a common trope in Norse mythology. There are 9 realms in Norse cosmology. Odin hung from Yggdrasil for 9 days. Thor walked 9 steps after defeating the Midgard Serpent. There are 9 nine daughters of Ægir, and 9 great lindworms. While we don’t know too much about the world of Ragnarökwe do know there’s some sort of pact between its remaining villains, and I find it interesting that the architecture in the panel depicts a total of 9 faces… but faces of who, I wonder. In particular; I wonder about that small face in the top-right hanging pillar, and if that may suggest a particular combatant may not have been destroyed during Ragnarök after all.

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