Jul 27, 2014

Review: Ragnarok #1

I finally received my copy of Ragnarok #1 yesterday, and I did not find myself disappointed. Walt Simonson's return to Norse myths was exciting and action-packed, with the first issue focusing on a Dark Elf assassin named Brynja in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world. Leaving behind her husband Regn and their daughter Drifa, Brynja takes on a very dangerous assignment: killing a dead god. Assembling a team of assassins, Brynja takes on the quest, looking for their mark.

It's difficult to say what you will or won't take into the comic as you start reading it. The first five pages, which Simonson showed in its entirety months before the release of the issue, illustrate the battle between Thor and Jormungand the Midgard Serpent as it was supposed to occur according the the prophecy of Ragnarok. In these pages, however, it's told as a folk story. People following the interviews and previews (here's one) for the series know what's up, but going in cold will leave you wondering what the big picture is, and in a good "Man, I gotta get the next one to see what's up" way.

I find myself increasingly attracted to badass female protagonists lately, and Brynja fits the bill to a T. A confident take-no-prisoners fighter, her command of the room makes for a compelling read. The initial scenes with her family are enough to get you to root for her and feel some sympathy, even if you don't really know what it is she's tasked to do. She carries the story well.

It's amazing to me that at 67 years old, three decades after what most fans would probably consider his peak, Simonson is still as skilled as ever. If anything, the glossy paper and today's production values just ensures good line quality, and the inks are confident and bold. Simonson's breakdowns are as solid as ever, as everything is paced to maximum effect. There's also no shortage of background detail, and you really feel the texture and weight of this world as Brynja and company go around it. Simonson does a particularly cool effect near the end that never fails to impress me, which you'll have to see to appreciate.

Colorists are often unsung heroes, but I don't think that's going to be the case in this series. Laura Martin's colors pop despite the bleakness of the story and the situation. It's truly a feast for the eyes.

There isn't much negative to say about Ragnarok that wouldn't be centered around unfair expectations for the series, likely brought in by Simonson's association with Marvel's Thor franchise. If you're looking for Marvel's Thor, well, this isn't it (Marvel's Thor is kicking ass right now, by the way), and you're never going to get it. But if you like the fantastic, if you like action, kickass protagonists, a sense of wonder, even in the bleakest of atmospheres, and beautiful art, then you should give Ragnarok a shot.

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