Review by Nolan P. Smith
(Victor Valley)—Life can be a funny, difficult, tragic thing. We live, and we live thinking we did as much as we can, with dreams of a better and brighter tomorrow. But when God comes calling, we all must answer. In the case of Long Walk to Valhalla, when the Gods call you home, you have no choice but to follow the Valkyrie to Valhalla.
Creators Adam Smith and Matt Fox have created something very special with this original graphic novel. I saw the creators at this year’s San Diego Comic Con, and I was going to stop to get a signed copy, purely off of the amazing cover design, but instead I figured I could order it on a later date. That’s a big regret for me now that I have sat down and read this.
What’s it about? The story focuses on Rory, a young man who’s still trying to find the right path in life. With no job, and a hometown full of misery in Arkansas, he leaves out of state with a new job in tow. On his way out, fate would have him stranded on the side of the road, no phone service, no help; no, just Rory and a strange little girl claiming to be a Valkyrie, from Norse mythology, who’s job is to escort warriors to Valhalla for a life well lived- so she’s here to take Rory to the afterlife. That’s when we see the heart of the story.
This Valkyrie, Sylvia, talks to Rory about his past: about his mentally challenged brother Joe that Rory has stuck by and defended all his life, about his abusive and alcoholic dad, and all the points in his life that have lead up to Rory to receive a warrior’s welcome to the afterlife. The story is extremely powerful: I don’t know if its because how it resonates with me, having three mentally disabled siblings of my own, or the sheer talent of the creators- I like to think it’s the latter.
Smith crafts such a simple yet amazing tale, tied into mythological aspects, but grounded into the Southern United States. Rory is likable guy, trying to do his best but life keeps handing him lemons. Joe is strong guy, plagued with seeing fantastical and sometimes frightening visions of monsters beyond imagination, something that nobody can relate to but him.
I really like this parallel, as I know for so many individuals with mental disabilities, this is exactly how they feel- alone, like only they see the world in the way their eyes see it. It’s so true, and should be noted that being disabled doesn’t make you different, or dumb, or less than anyone else. My siblings are far smarter than me in so many respects, and far stronger. Rory makes this kind of acknowledgement in the book, which really put a smile on my face all the way to the end.
Fox crafts a backdrop in black and blue hues; simple but extremely fitting style for such a story. The character designs are outstanding, especially the creature and monsters Joe sees, which really stretch the imagination and open your eyes to something truly unique. I mentioned that the cover it what drew me to this book- but it’s the interior art meshed with the narration that crafts a book with such heart that kept me turning the pages.
Archaia and Boom have put out some of the best stories I have read, and Long Walk to Valhalla is now up there with Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand in my opinion. A strong, emotional book that will tug at your heartstrings and make you smile, I can’t find a thing wrong with this book. I will go ahead and say it: this will be one of the top 10 books of 2015, hands down.