Every few months, I stumble upon a book that I didn’t see coming, and then find myself blown away at both its elusiveness and its splendor. So it is with Green Valley, Max Landis’s brand new tale of brotherhood, commitment, and courage in the face of staggering loss, which I only heard about for the first time a few days ago on Twitter. Brought beautifully to life by Gieuseppe Camuncoli, Cliff Rathburn, Jean-Francois Beaulieu, and Pat Brosseau, this is the promising start to a grand adventure—one which its author claims will defy our expectations.
From the very first shot, the world of Green Valley invites you in, as Sir Bertwald and Sir Ralphus—two of the famed Knights of Kelodia—sit astride their horses in the midst of a lush vista that may well be this series’s namesake. Then they begin to speak, and we quickly learn that the world of this book consists as much in its characters as it does in the artists’ magnificent visuals. As their conversation progresses, the love that these two brother-knights share becomes apparent—not because of any overt gestures of affection, but rather by their intimate knowledge of one another, and the playful needling to which they apply that knowledge. I see myself and my own brothers in this conversation—even myself and my wife. It’s like we’re learning about these heroes in a mirror instead of through a window, and that allows Landis to establish them in a remarkably small amount of space. The dialogue is warm and organic, but also frequently macho and hilarious. I’m fully invested only a few pages in.
As the setting shifts to the Knights’ home, the brotherly affection meets a wrinkle, as Bertwald’s heart (and feet) go straight to Amalia, his great love. Amidst a group of friends intent on sleeping with as many different women as possible, Bertie (as he is sweetly called by his lady) longs for his one-and-only when away, and once at home finds contentment in her arms alone. Perhaps because of worldview, or perhaps because I’ve been married for fourteen years and love my own wife more than when I first met her, I find Bertie and Amalia’s commitment to each other incredibly endearing.
All of this inspiring character development comes wrapped in masterful visual storytelling courtesy of the book’s talented crew of artists. Camuncoli’s aesthetic is perfectly suited to this fantastical story of mythic knights: figures resemble reality well enough that joys and dangers are easy to take seriously; and yet, the facial and bodily exaggerations employed enhance both the whimsical and the brutish. Rathburn precisely inks all of this, making for a very neat, clean finish that doesn’t call too much attention to itself and serves the telling of the story perfectly.
Camuncoli also does a fabulous job at layout. At several points, I was struck by how well he uses visual repetition to develop a scene, sometimes mimicking a similar repetitive pattern in dialogue. When the situation calls for more movement and action, he is just as capable, creating quite a few memorable panels and sequences, be they hilariously entertaining or just plain awesome. Even when characters are exaggerated in appearance, their actions and expressions have them solidly tethered to reality.
And that’s to say nothing of the color. I took notice of Jean-Francois Beaulieu on Skottie Young’s first Rocket Raccoon run, and while that was amazing in its own right, this is something different altogether. Perhaps it’s how well he, too, evokes reality—the lush valley we see at the start, the banquet full of food that looks delicious even on the page, or the menacing glow of a town lit by firelight. Or perhaps it’s in the subtle shift in palette as battle dawns, or when the Knights come home and feast with their king. Beaulieu just seems to do everything right in this book, and it’s a pleasure to look at such beautiful colors.
Letterer Pat Brosseau worked on one of my favorite books of all time, but even setting aside my prior affections, I love seeing his artistry here. It’s common to either ignore the letterer, or to comment only on flashy sound effects or credits pages, but much of what Brosseau is doing in this issue is simultaneously hard to notice and hugely relevant to how the book works. There is quite a bit of interplay between Bertie and Ralphie in the opening scene, and it would be easy for this back-and-forth to read as one continuous lump; however, Brosseau deftly clumps together or separates balloons, adding visual beats and implying pauses that go a long way toward helping Landis achieve the organic dialogue that I so gushingly lauded earlier. Even when the verbal interaction is less dense, Brosseau’s balloon placement makes excellent use of panel space and helps to guide the eye through what’s happening on the page.
I asked Pat on Twitter if he was also did Green Valley’s wonderful cover and interior graphic design, but he said it wasn’t him. So I followed up with Skybound’s PR team (thanks, Sarah!) and learned that Camuncoli and Beaulieu handled the entire cover—not just the more obvious pictorial portion. I’ve got to say, I think the title and subtitle are as captivating as anything else they’ve done in this issue. This book begs to be picked up and opened.
So that’s Green Valley. As conflict disrupts the happy lives of Bertie, Ralphie, and the rest of the Knights, I will be anxious to see where Landis takes these characters. Can their fraternal bonds survive the trials they face? I trust that you, like me, will have a hard time waiting a whole month to find out.
Thus ends my look at Green Valley #1. Be sure to let me know if you check it out, and what else you’re reading lately. And as always, we close with a few other things that we’re reading here at Batman News:
Doom Patrol #1
I have no experience with the characters, and I have no sense of what’s happening, but I loved it! Way’s dialogue and narration are captivating, and the quirky world he created is ripe for exploration. Derington and Bonvillain realize the script beautifully, and Klein’s bold, sharp headings are a nice juxtaposition to Derington’s less angular lines and Bonvillain’s less assertive color palette. This book is an all-around blast, and a nice contrast to the more straightforward stuff that makes up most of my reading list each month.
Frostbite #1 (Vertigo)
Flash writer Joshua Williamson’s new thriller presents a dystopian winter wasteland where a highly-contagious virus threatens to wipe out what remains of humanity. Our hero is Keaton, a woman made brutal by the pain of loss. Our quest—at least initially—is to escort the architect of a cure to the aforementioned virus to a place where it can be synthesized and distributed. Frostbite is made all the more engaging by artist Jason Shawn Alexander’s almost life-like characters and bleak snowscapes, and in spite of its lack of hospitality, this is a world I’m itching to revisit next time.
Romulus #1 (Image)
I’ve been waiting for this book since it was announced, something like a year ago, and I was not disappointed when it finally dropped this week. Bryan Hill establishes a compelling premise, with orphaned assassin Ashlar striking out against the secret society that trained her and her mother before her. Nelson Blake’s designs are sleek and smooth, and his stark, colorful backgrounds help Ashlar and her co-stars pop off of the page. While the characters feel a bit more like archetypes than fully-conceived people at this point, the setup is intriguing, and Hill drops quite a few deft turns of phrase. Romulus is brimming with potential, and I’ll be watching it closely.