Today, Michael and Ryan are discussing Green Valley 1, originally released October 5th, 2016. As always, this article containers SPOILERS.
Michael: After reading Superman: American Alien, I came to the conclusion that Max Landis needs to write more comic books. Imagine my delight when I discovered that Landis had written one of the books I was covering this week: Green Valley 1. The first issue of this medieval tale is front-loaded with just the right amount of exposition before Landis and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli descend a shining kingdom into chaos.
Green Valley 1 tells the tale of the Knights of Kelodia: a team of heroic medieval warriors whose legendary exploits seem to be on par with Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The presumed leader of the group is Sir Bertwald, his right hand man is Sir Ralphus — or “Ralphie”, the skilled archer is Sir Indrid and the bearded battle loving brute of the group is Sir Gulliver. The four knights make short work of an army of 400 would-be invader barbarians, who turn tail after the knights slice through an onslaught of arrows and chop off the ear of their leader Brutus. All of Kelodia celebrates their triumph, along with the impending marriage of Sir Bertwald and his fiancé Amalia. Shortly after the two lovers go to bed however, Brutus and his horde attack the town and kill damn near everyone, including Amalia.
Landis is primarily a screenwriter, and through the filmmaking process screenplays often transform into different beasts than they were originally intended. That’s why I think that Landis does such a great job writing for comic books because there’s a little less editorial oversight — independent comics especially. As I mentioned earlier: there is a lot of exposition in this first issue, but it never seems excessive. We are presented with the image of this proud kingdom and its cherished heroes, a look into the past of these characters’ shared histories and a glimpse towards their possible futures. The opening pages of Green Valley 1 are an excellent way of “showing not telling” in terms of Bertwald and Ralphie’s relationship. There’s a comedic back and forth between the two that shows a level of comfort the two have with one another and confidence in their abilities when we see they’re facing down an army 100x larger than their own.
There’s a lot going on in that Bertwald/Ralphie bromance throughout the issue, really. In that first scene, we see each of these seasoned warriors turn into bashful little boys who are concerned with what one thinks about the other. For Bertwald, that’s an indication of trust in a friend, for Ralphie could it be a little more? A drunken Ralphie tells Bertwald that he’s jealous of him but also jealous of Amalia because “she gets you.” He recovers and says that he wants to quest on with Bertwald instead of Bert settling down, and it’s not really clear what his true intentions are. Giuseppe Camuncoli doesn’t really tip his hand either way on this either, so it’s possible that we’re to believe Ralphie at his word. We can all probably attest to that feeling of loneliness when a friend finds their better half, right?
Green Valley 1 is a story that sets up all of the dominoes in a momentous fashion just so it can knock them all down. Sir Bertwald Knights of Kelodia are the best of the best: loved by their kingdom and feared by their enemies. Showing us all of the joy that Bertwald and his ilk have only to have it violently ripped away is a great arc for a comic book issue. I think the last page of the issue best encapsulates the state that Sir Bertwald and Kelodia are in. Brutus is smiling wickedly as the town burns around him and Bertwald is holding his dead fiancé in his arms. Camuncoli draws Bertwald himself as completely naked except for the sword in his hand. For now all he has left is his sword and his rage.
Ryan what did you think of Green Valley 1? Do you think that the Bertwald/Ralphie bromance could become a romance? Did you get whiffs Lord of the Rings or other fantasy epics like I did? And my most burning of questions: was that pig on the picnic blanket alive? It was changing faces a lot, right? Were they gonna cook a live pig? Cruel.
Ryan D: Michael, I honestly did not notice that pig’s facial expressions changing so much! That is hysterical.
That is a great little detail, one one of many injected by the pencils into a comic already populated by character by the writer. Camuncoli draws this title like he loves it, and I can almost see him having fun drawing the little odds and ends of the dining table at the banquet hall.
These small notes are important, and are what separate this title from others of this old, worn genre.
But that’s kind of Landis’ thing, isn’t it? Landis takes concepts with which we are well-familiar and always throws in an angle or dynamic which might at first seem alien, or might make more sense than we expect. Having just tried enjoying a story on a similar time-line, Merry Men, which I felt collapsed under the weight of its stilted dialogue, seeing this issue open with some incredibly well-motivated banter between two best friends- who also just happen to be knights and adventurers about to enter a sweeping battlefield, proved an absolute treat. Landis often speak about the importance of having relatable characters with very believable voices, and this is apparent here. The thing which kept me a little off-put by the end of this title, though, is the idea that he often likes some other- pardon the expression- gimmick or different approach with his works. Take American Alien, for example. The Clark Kent we met there was dealing with a rural Americana which hadn’t really been portrayed in Superman comics before. So when this issue of Green Valley ended, I was wondering whether the novelty of his approach in this title was going to be his use of grounded dialogue and simple character motivations independent of faerie queenes or other tropes of knight’s tales or if there would be more. Not that there necessarily needs to be, but I did take consolation in his ending note included where the letters section may be next issue, promising that the reader can not possibly expect what happens next. Ok, Max, you got me.
Landis talked about having an image in his head which inspired him to pen this comic, and it is clear that his visions for this title were very clear. Paired with the joyous pens of Camuncoli and the vibrant but not overbearing colors of Jean-Francois Beaulieu, the individual panels seem able to all stand up individually as well as fitting into the story as a whole. Optimally, every panel could function as a painting, and I think the art in this title is damn-near close.
So, I’m excited. There’s plenty here to explore. I would have even been content to just follow the four knights around on their quests and journeys and see how Bertwald managed questing with a relationship, even without the status quo being turned upon its head by the barbarians returning to bathe the town in flame and blood. Max Landis seems, thus far, to be chasing what thrills him with this title, and with a polished artistic team like this behind him, my guess is that there will be some beautiful chaos waiting for us in the issue ahead.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?