In Review: Ragnarök: The Breaking of Helheim #2

No one does epic like Walter Simonson.

The covers: This seems impossible: Thor on his knees in chains?! Mjolnir is before him out of his reach. A dwarf stands in the background with his arms crossed, indifferent to the god’s dilemma. Great tease of what’s within by artist Walter Simonson with excellent colors by Laura Martin that has Thor get the focus and the silver colored chains draw the reader to the edge of the illustration and the setting. And if you want some real foreshadowing, take a look at what the wall of this cave is made of. In addition to this Standard cover there’s also a Retailer Incentive featuring Simonson’s pencils and inks, but without Martin’s contributions. I like this, but I prefer it colored. Overall Grades: Standard A and Retailer Incentive A-

The story: Thor is riding “Through the Gates of Helheim,” the title of this issue’s story, on the opening page. He comes upon a castle in ruins, but with lights within. He has Ratatosk stay behind with Lady as he proceeds on foot. He encounters guards who rise out of the ground and take him prisoner for Freyr to work the mines of their master. Thor goes willingly, but not before witnessing something at the bottom of Page 3 that will be important later. I like that Thor leaves these guards at the castle’s entrance and the sound they hear that the reader cannot. Writer Walter Simonson has created a truly despicable character in Freyr. His arrogance knows no bounds, he’s also cocky, and the reader quickly realizes that when he is taken out by Thor it’s going to be a massive take down. The dialogue between him and Thor is awesome for the tone and the tension it has. The reactions by the characters on 8 are perfect. I was glad to see a return to the mass of baddies that want Thor exterminated and how they’re hesitant to get him even after learning his location. Hagen is another new character and I was ready to hate him as much as Freyr until he makes a comment on the third panel on 15 that was the right thing to say to the thunder god. I was surprised that Hagen was given a backstory, as I didn’t expect him to last long, but in doing so Simonson really fleshes this character out and takes him into a neat direction. Freyr reaffirms his horrible character on 17 and 18. The cliffhanger that Simonson leaves the hero in is perfect and would work just as well for an archaeologist from film. This is a fun read with killer dialogue, an awesome hero, a hiss worthy villain, a neat turnabout, and a heart stopping cliffhanger. Overall grade: A

The art: Walter Simonson, the artist, jumps into this issue by having the hero and Lady leaping down a waterfall into the unknown. Lady is nightmare brought to life with a monstrous toothy maw, ram horns, and a body covered in blonde hair. Add skull faced Thor riding on her back and this is a startling image to begin to his issue. The rise of the guards on 2 is good and I love the third panel on the next page that shows some objects inches from the god’s face. The close-up of Thor at the top of 5 is some excellent foreshadowing of what Freyr’s future state will be. I like how Simonson has this villain distant from the hero at the bottom of the page; it establishes his, supposed, regal state and all of the minions under him. And check out the decorations on either side of the panel — so cool! The action at the top of 7 was expected, but still is simultaneously funny and wicked. The five faces that are in the middle of 8 telegraph something to the reader that will not be mistaken. Astrid is a good femme fatale and I’m hoping there’s more of her in upcoming issues. The exit at the bottom of the ninth page is a good way to establish that Freyr is not a weak ruler. Page 12 is a full-paged splash that shows Thor’s new locale and how many others are in the same place. It also teases a character lurking in the shadows. I like that Hagen is not oversized, but more like an average man. I love the actions at the top of 15 and that third panel makes me smile for the character’s reaction every time I look at it. The layout on 16 is great as one character gives another quite a bit of information and the machinations discussed are adjacent to the pair. This such a smart way to show how the characters feel about these horrible plans. The third panel on the next page is fun, but not as enjoyable as the panic that ends 18. The final page starts with several characters reacting to something not seen until the final panel and the reader will find their his or her face matches theirs. Simonson’s art never fails to be epic, elegant, and just badass. Overall grade: A+

The colors: This issue starts deceptive dark with a blood red sky on the opening page. Even Thor and his mount are fairly dark. Thor’s armor has him stand out before the castle and its guards. Once Freyr is encountered colorist Laura Martin’s work brightens considerably. This antagonist is the visual opposite of the ghastly god and his colors complete his pretty boy imagery. The red stripe on his face gives him a lurking evil vibe. The exit on 9 is magical in gold and white. Check out the cool job done with the light source on 12 that has a cavern lit up beautifully. The blues on 14 and 15 communicate clearly that play time is over. I like that these blues are used for the silhouette on the latter page, giving it a magical feel. The items created on 16 are beautiful and threatening with their color choice. The final page’s yellow and oranges are spectacular. Martin is aces on this book. Overall grade: A+ 

The letters: John Workman creates the text of this issue which includes narration and dialogue (the same font), the book’s title, yells, sounds, whispered dialogue, and the three word tease for next issue. I’ve enjoyed Workman’s letters for years and like what he’s doing here. The narration and dialogue are differed by the shape and colors of their boxes and balloons. I would have liked them to be in different fonts, but it’s easy enough to tell them apart. The yells come in different sizes and fonts, with some being funny and others intense. The book’s title on the opening page is like an explosion on the page, capturing any reader’s attention and starting this tale out epically. Workman’s sounds continue to be iconic with Pages 8, 9, and 15 fantastic. Plus, take a gander at the three words that end this issue, which look Norse based. Overall grade: A

The final line: A new villain, a possible ally, and Thor is in the thick of things again. I loved the story and gloried in the visuals. This is a book that every fan of comics should be following. No one does epic like Walter Simonson. Overall grade: A

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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