By Patrick Larose
Green Valley #1 is everything I hate about reviewing single-issue series. This isn’t even really the fault of the comic itself but instead all the hype and marketing around it. When Green Valley was first announced there was this intense secrecy about it. Every interview following its announcement showed four knights facing off a barbarian horde. They’re friends, this is a fantasy comic it should be straight-forward but the writer, Max Landis, made sure to preface every interview with an “I can’t tell you anything about it without spoiling it.” The tagline itself invites us to question everything that happens in this comic: Kill a wizard, and slay his dragons. But there’s no such thing as wizards, dragons don’t exist.
Nothing in this story is what it seems.
So then why does everything about this first issue feel so surface level?
Green Valley #1 is fantasy played straight albeit with a perfect and beautiful storybook visual flair. Four legendary knights and four friends faceoff with a barbarian hoard and they are legendary for a reason. Their wits and skill push back an army of four hundred within a few seconds but their own hubris inevitably comes back to bite them as that one quick victory leads to a long, protracted and bloody downfall in the rest of the issue.
That story, however, doesn’t feel terribly important in terms of the issue’s focus. The scenes move into and out of each other vaguely, little’s established about the setting and surrounding characters as if the narrative knows they’ll all be quickly swept away . One of the knight’s love interest is cutely introduced then quickly fridged within a couple pages. These knights are legendarily but we don’t really learn why. The barbarians are evil but purposelessly so.
There are so many fantasy comics coming out right now within this greater conscious entertainment market where fantasy has to be different to stand out. I kept searching between the gutters for what made Green Valley #1 different, where the seams were waiting to be pulled but, with all that effort, I couldn’t find them.
At the same time, that’s on me. As a narrative, this comic isn’t trying to get you question its content or its reality. There aren’t even any seams showing.
Instead the comic wants us to pay attention to its friendships and who these knights are to each other.
There’s a familiar cadence in the way this group of characters interacts with each other. While they still speak in an archaic, faux-medieval dialogue, there’s a rhythm to their exchanges that reminds more of “Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned” than Game of Thrones. They resonate like real friends; they give each other shit and already feel like a modern, holistically developed relationship.
Landis’ screenwriting background shows as these characters feel a bit talkier than they necessarily have to but he still uses his grown skill at portraying male friendships to great effect. These exchanges already feel comfortable. While we may not know what makes them legends, there’s a definitive weight of a shared history between them.
The end of this issue harkens towards dark things to come and ultimately I think the solidity of this friendship is probably this chapter's main point within the narrative arc. We need to know their friendship is solid. We need to know they care deeply about each other because just maybe the things to come will push their relationship more than anything else.
That breaking point, however, isn’t in Green Valley #1 nor is there really an indication of what that breaking point might be. That might work for a collected work but it’s left me scratching at the walls trying to figure out what makes this story interesting.
What I want from Green Valley #1 isn’t necessarily what Green Valley wants to do and what it wants to do doesn’t even necessarily align with its marketing and while there’s a mystery to be unraveled here but I couldn’t even tell you where it might begin.
So hurry up, Green Valley #2, and show me what you're really trying to do here.
Green Valley #1
Writer: Max Landis
Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Colorist: Cliff Rathburn
Letterer: Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Publisher: Image Comics