Grab your spear, saddle up your winged horse and set a course for Valhalla, because this September, writer Bryan J.L. Glass sends readers on a ride with Valkyrie in a brand new one-shot exploring the character’s recent resurrection and return to the Marvel Universe.
Chosen by Odin, the maiden Brunnhilde served as the original Valkyrie – leader of the Valkyrior, a group of Asgardian female warriors who usher the souls of the deceased into Valhalla. Much of the character’s mythological backstory followed the events of the Icelandic prose “Volsungasaga” and Richard Wagner’s famous play “Die Walkure.” However, the character has gone through a number of incarnations over the course of her Marvel career, with various mortals stepping into the Valkyrie role before Brunnhilde herself returned to the part. Valkyrie most notably served as a long-standing member of the Defenders, and although the character perished with her fellow Asgardians about six years ago during the Ragnarok storyline from “Thor” issues #80-85, keen-eyed readers may have noticed the sword-wielding hero appearing alive and well as one of the Lady Liberators in “Red Hulk” and more recently as a member of Steve Rogers’ “Secret Avengers.”
The upcoming “Valkyrie” one-shot by Glass and artist Phil Winslade will finally give fans an explanation to titular character’s return from dead, tying into the events of J. Michael Straczynski’s 2007 “Thor” re-launch that saw the Norse gods reborn in the modern day. Glass spoke with CBR News about the upcoming one-shot, why many see the character as a “Norse bitch goddess” and Valkyrie’s quest to solve her own murder.
Marvel Comics editor Bill Rosemann originally approached Glass about the project as part of the publisher’s Women of Marvel initiative. “They wanted to do these one-shots to kind of define, and in some cases redefine, some of their more obscure heroines,” Glass told CBR News. “A character like Valkyrie, I think she had a miniseries back in the ’90s, but it’s been a long, long time since she’s been spotlighted in any fashion. I had a familiarity with the main thrust of the character from the ’70s and ’80s, but they said, ‘Now give us the defining Valkyrie story.'”
In preparation for writing that story, Glass said he went back and researched the character’s history, quickly discovering a very tangled web that needed unweaving. “I realized that I, myself, never knew what a muddled history the character seemed to have,” explained the writer. “Ms. Marvel has always been a strong powerhouse character. The Wasp is partially identified through her changes in costumes. It felt like Valkyrie was identified by ‘Who is living in Valkyrie’s body now?’ Whether it be the original Brunnhilde or the Enchantress. Was it Barbara Norris from the Steve Gerber days? Was it Samantha Parrington, which was the latest incarnation of the character? I just started looking at all this whole sprawling history and thought, ‘How am I ever going to write the defining story of this character? I would need a miniseries just to unravel all this.'”
However, during the course of his research, Glass discovered the character’s recent re-emergence in the pages of the newly launched “Secret Avengers” ongoing title. As a starting point, he decided to ask “Secret Avengers” writer Ed Brubaker which version of the character appears in his series and take it from there. “I thought that was a really smart way to approach it,” laughed Glass. “They told me that Ed had chosen the original Brunnhilde as guardian shield maiden Valkyrie. I thought, ‘If he’s doing original Brunnhilde, I would be best be served by doing an original Brunnhilde Valkyrie story.’ A lot of people have favorite eras of Valkyrie, but I’ve always come back to, ‘the woman whose body it originally was is the woman who has the greatest claim to the body.’ And that’s Brunnhilde, going back to the Wagnerian opera days.”
Of course, as fans of the character know, Brunnhilde died along with the rest of the Norse gods in the pages of “Thor” several years back, but as any comic book reader can tell you, death just makes for a slight bump in the road for comic book characters – especially god-like ones. When writer J. Michael Straczynski re-launched the Thunder God’s series, he introduced the idea of the Asgardians being reborn into mortal bodies. Worried that his mythological brethren might die before realizing their godly existence, Thor sent a massive lightning storm across the world that reawakened all the gods.
“I looked at that and thought, ‘That’s what I need to do.’ We’ve never seen Valkyrie reborn. We never saw her awakened,” said Glass. “And I took that concern that Thor raised of, ‘What would happen if one of these mortal bodies died with an Asgardian soul within.’ So I’ve taken that premise to reintroduce Valkyrie, and we have a reborn Brunnhilde who is consumed with solving her own murder.”
In fact, the one-shot opens with the character’s death – serendipitously timed with Thor’s lightning powered wake up call. The mystery behind her murder drives the character to both rediscover who she is while rediscovering her place in the Marvel Universe. Glass admitted that this also allowed him to explore and explain aspects of the character’s personality he felt never fit quite right. “In the solicitation, one of the lines editorial put in was, ‘Dare to explore the heart or soul of Marvel’s most misunderstood heroine,'” he said. “So often, Valkyrie has been portrayed as this ultra-feminist – downright man hating. She’s always been portrayed as this woman who, if you crossed her path the wrong way, she’d castrate you. Just very, ‘I am woman, hear me roar. You’re a man, you’re a worm, down on your knees before me.’ This aloof, cold, frigid, Norse bitch goddess, if I can get away with saying that. That’s how she’s always been portrayed. I think it was Roy Thomas who took the origin back to the Wagnerian opera. Brunnhilde the Valkyrie is the Valkyrie of ‘Die Walkure,’ whose entire story is tied to falling in love with a mortal warrior.”
Glass will use Brunnhilde’s operatic back-story and her views on love to help shape how he approached her current personality and to better clarify her previous one. “This is a character who in her Wagnerian opera origins is such a passionate woman consumed with love that it had her banished from Asgard. And yet, she’s been now portrayed in so many incarnations as cold, loveless, aloof. I wanted to explore that as well,” he said. “What is it about her personality that has had so many comic creators and characters within the Marvel Universe react as though that’s the way she is. What I’ve explored is that she’s a character that love is so powerful to her that she dislikes love and sex being, to her, trivialized. She is very resentful and takes it as a personal insult when these deep commitments of the heart can be discarded. What is perceived as being cold, is actually a very high moral standard in regards to male, female relationships.”
Although the character experiences a fair share of internal conflict in the upcoming title, the writer assures fans that there is more than enough physical conflicts as well. “It does end with a knockdown, drag ’em out super hero brawl,” teased Glass. “I don’t want to reveal who the villain is, because the villain is tied into Valkyrie solving her own murder.”
As a final tease, Glass said readers should keep an eye out for multiple Easter Eggs throughout the one-shot referencing both the character’s previous incarnations and the greater Marvel Universe. “‘Valkyrie’ is my introduction to the Marvel Universe as a writer. It’s my first opportunity to play in the Marvel toy box. It’s very cool,” laughed Glass. “But I feel that if you’re hired to write in the Marvel Universe, the Marvel Universe is so rich and expansive, beyond just the character that you’re doing.The resonance of the Marvel Universe itself should be all over the place. There should be references to the character’s past. So it’s an opportunity to reference things and make the story feel as though that is where it’s taking place.”
“Valkyrie,” by Bryan J.L. Glass and Phil Winslade, rides into comic shops September 15.