Thunder God Thursday: Walter Simonson’s Ragnarök

simonson-ragnarok-teaseShould you be interested in Walter Simonson’s Ragnarök? If you’re already familiar with the writer-artist’s work, particularly his acclaimed run on Marvel’s Thor, you can probably skip to the line below.

TL;DR – Shut up and take my money. Yes, it’s that good.

Simonson’s a veteran storyteller, with his work appearing in Marvel, DC and other comics since the 1970s. He brought a mythic gravitas to Marvel’s superhero version of the Norse god of thunder when he wrote and drew The Mighty Thor. (Click here for my thoughts on why you should read his entire run on the title.) And while Simonson isn’t the only comic creator to bring the Norse gods to life in sequential art form, he has a flair for it few others do.

Which is why it’s so nice to see him cut loose in the nine worlds of Norse mythology without being bound by the constraints of contemporary superhero comics continuity. In Ragnarök, published by IDW, Simonson starts with the cataclysmic end of the nine worlds, quoting from Völuspá (“The Prohecy of the Seeress”) from the Old Norse Poetic Edda. The Aesir struggle against the Fenrir, Jormungandur and the fire giants in a doomed battle that lays waste to the worlds.

Ragnarok 1 coverIn Ragnarök, Simonson tells a tale that begins after that, something the remaining Norse myths we have knowledge of are quite vague on. Call it post-Norse-apocalyptic fiction.

The story follows a family of dark elves, or svartálfar, the mother and father of whom are assassins. While their daughter Drifa is plagued by nightmares, mother Brynja sets out on a mission while the father, Regn, stays home to look after their child. Why does she need to recruit fellow assassins? What remains of the nine worlds? What do Drifa’s dreams mean?

These are all good questions, some of which are answered or hinted at as the story unfolds. But consider, too: Simonson casts a dark-skinned woman as his hero in a mythic world where portrayals of protagonists have often hewed to the white-Euro-male tradition. And Brynja kicks all kinds of ass.

And while the story is just beginning, so it’s too early to tell just where Simonson is going with it, it’s clear from page one that his artwork is as gorgeous as ever. The chaotic, wide-ranging final battle of gods and monsters is dynamic, huge, terrifying, and beautiful. The comic is worth picking up for the portrayal of Thor and Jormungandur alone. The colouring, by Laura Martin adds a wonderful vibrancy and depth to every page. It’s one of the best-looking comics I’ve read in ages.

So if you’re in the market for a great fantasy tale and a take on Norse mythology that not only stays true to its roots but also does something fresh and original, pick up Walter Simonson’s Ragnarök. Yes, it’s that good.

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