Monday, November 7, 2016

The Valkyrie Rides Again!

Who knows what larger plans might've been percolating in the mind of Roy "The Boy" Thomas when he concocted a delightful lark of a story for The Avengers #83.

He had our assembled heroes (Goliath, Vision, Quicksilver and  Black Panther) attend the Rutland Halloween parade and we meet not only the writer and his wife of the time but Tom Fagan, fan supreme.

At the same time this is happening the women of the Marvel Universe (Scarlet Witch, Medusa, Black Widow, and Wasp)  fall under the spell of an enigmatic woman called the Valkyrie who convinces them that they have been held back by the male chauvinistic attitudes of the men in their lives. Weirdly they all agree to to go to Rutland and attack the male Avengers. The battle rages briefly before Wanda gets a clue that the Valkyrie is actually the Enchantress and they have all been her pawns to help her get over the loss of her boyfriend the Executioner who ditched her for a other dimensional queen. Like I said it's a hootenanny and a half.

Nor do I think it was part of some master plan when a year later in The Incredible Hulk #142 Roy revives the Valkyrie, this time as a personality which dominates the feminist Samantha Parrington. In a story titled "They Shoot Hulks, Don't They?" which is mostly satire (Tom Wolfe has a cameo), we have the Hulk taking a nap in the Statue of Liberty and some upper crust society snobs named Parrington decide to use him as their next cause around which to have a fancy party and make a splash in the society pages.

Their daughter Samantha, a devoted feminist is appalled by this lame behavior and ends up getting enchanted by the Enchantress and becomes the Valkyrie just in time to battle old Greenskin. It all just rather ends and the Hulk and Samantha go on their merry ways. I don't think we learn if the party was a hit. The comic was beautifully drawn though by Herb Trimpe and John Severin.

And that brings us to The Defenders #4 when the Enchantress pops up yet again. This story is by Steve Englehart with very attractive art by Sal Buscema and Frank McLaughlin (Judomaster's daddy). This time we get some resolution to the problem she has with the Executioner and we see her take her revenge on the Queen who snatched him up. We also see her infuse the personality of Valkyrie into the body of the mad Barbara Norris, creating seemingly a whole new person. All this takes place in the castle of the Black Knight, who himself has fallen under the spell of the Enchantress and ends up transformed into a statue for his trouble. This is a terrible thing for a great character but it does set up one of the most famous stories in Marvel lore, but more on that later. Valkyrie by default ends up with the Ebony Blade and the flying horse Aragorn.

The story of Valkyrie really continues into the fifth issue of The Defenders when as she is attempting to find how she fits into this new world, the Valkyrie becomes embroiled in a threat the Defenders put down once before. Doc Strange had ended the threat of the Omegatron by slowing time down to an impossible degree, but changing circumstances had speeded it up again and the threat to the world was very real. The Omegatron teleports both Namor and the Hulk to use their fighting energy to fuel its ultimate transformation and only the intervention of the Valkyrie and Namorita who wake the Sub-Mariner and the Hulk saves the day...literally.

Valkyrie has found a home of sorts and will become one of the core elements of the Defenders as the non-team moves into the future.

And that future seems to include an inevitable conflict with another famous assembly of heroes, the Avengers. More next time. 

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  1. In retrospect the Valkyrie was a necessary visual addition to the all-powerful boys club that became the early Defenders. Unfortunately though, the writers took way to long way too long to define her identity & character and tell who she was & what her motivations were (all that Barbara Noriss stuff was a bit tough to follow and seemed to go on for years.)

    1. The Barbara Norris backstory was pretty fascinating at first as most Steve Gerber character bits could be, but as you say it just wandered off and never seemed to find direction. By the end she was someone altogether different.

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