Joe Casey and Paul Maybury’s “Valhalla Mad” #1 is a fun, entertaining throwback to the storytelling of yesteryear, a comic book filled with characters pontificating to one another out loud and the mundane rubbing shoulders with the fantastic. It’s certainly a riff on Thor, and readers looking for an entertaining spin on mythic European godheads with some Kirby flair will want to check out this debut.
After an unspecified event, the gods Knox, Greghorn and Jhago arrive on Earth to celebrate Gluttonalia, a tradition where the gods gorge themselves on drink and food — but mostly drink. The issue itself doesn’t travel far from the bar, but Casey and Maybury find a lot of fun in the merriment. Much of the dialogue and layouts are reminiscent of Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz’s run in the 80s and 90s on “The Mighty Thor” with an homage to old Lee/Kirby cosmic spectacle.
Casey scripts the gods with odd Victorian flourish; it helps distinguish them from the humans in the tale but still seems such an odd choice for Viking gods. Maybury crams each panel with detail; his expressive cartooning is fun, a mixture of realistic detail and animated flatness that gives the tale a vibrant, tongue-in-cheek feel. The character work favors squat, wide design and is reminiscent of creators like Ladronn, and the layouts hark back to Frenz and Kirby. His designs are outrageous on purpose and call back to the oddest of designs for many of Kirby’s strangest ideas, from spiked ball appendages to odd monk bowl cuts to birdfeet.
The creators clearly have a great time making this story and that feeling is infectious; the mead they drink, which is some sort of godly concoction, is a frothy beer with stars in the foam. Several splash pages call out the big moments of the story, such as the arrival of Knox and his friends or their toast at the bar. There’s not a lot of punch fighting in this issue, though the dialogue pushes the story forward well enough that readers may not notice. Casey seems to be channel the ideaspace he took up while collaborating with Tom Scioli on “Godland,” a 21st century remix of some wild storytelling from decades before.
The downside of the issue is that there really isn’t a whole lot that happens, particularly for a debut issue. There’s a lot of character work done in media res, but the majority of the story is three new characters standing around drinking. The gods travel to the Bronx for a new, mysterious reason that creates a cliffhanger for the issue, but there’s no real plot action that would compel readers to come back for the next installment. Casey rolls the dice on readers being charmed enough by the interactions of the main characters to come back for more and, though they are fun, it’s an interesting choice for the first issue of a series.
Readers looking for a lighthearted and vintage take on the fantastic should check out “Valhalla Mad” #1. It’s a great looking book with fun ideas; it doesn’t take itself too seriously and enjoys being a comic book.