Valkyrie: Jane Foster #4 Review

by Charles Martin on October 23, 2019

Valkyrie: Jane Foster #4 Review
Writers: Al Ewing & Jason Aaron
Artist: CAFU
Colourist: Jesus Aburtov
Letterer & Production: Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comic

As though the previous issue's revelation that the Grim Reaper was pulling Bullseye's strings weren't enough, Valkyrie #4 starts by introducing the man behind the man behind the man:

Surprise, it's all about Mephisto!

Somebody's finally addressing the fact that the Marvel universe's arch-demon has been bottled up in a Vegas casino since Damnation. This issue fuels him up with sleazy smarm and lets him detail out a magnificently nasty plan for Valkyries in general and the last Valkyrie (that's Jane) in particular.

And speaking of Jane? She's sweating the problem of making rent on her pitiful new morgue attendant salary. Plus, of course, Mr. Horse is making a right nuisance of himself with his insistence on rooming with her.

"The bathroom situation is … not ideal."

For the short-term plot, Jane tries to hit up Dr. Annabelle Riggs, a former Valkyrie body-switching host, for the benefits of her experience. Dr. Riggs is busy giving an archaeology lecture that stresses how un-Indiana-Jones-ish her job usually is.

It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out what happens when you tempt fate with a line like that. Before you know it, everything's gone all "world-endangering artifacts" and "magical guest stars" and "incredibly dangerous superhero fight in the lecture hall."

The Grim Reaper rolls in at the end to tie the short-term plot into Mephisto's plans with scrupulously good timing. 

That neat little plotting knot is emblematic of everything Jason Aaron and Al Ewing are doing in this script. The hapless hero's civilian identity problems, the broad-strokes talking-horse comedy, Mephisto's 4th-wall-teasing sassiness, the way the guest star blatantly threatens to take over the story and the meta-fictional joking about it -- this comic is bursting with over-the-top ideas that threaten to peg the needle on my cheese-o-meter.

And the comedic elements are sharing space (rather like an obtrusive talking horse in one's living room) with some insanely dramatic stuff. Like the last issue, #4 touches for one chilling moment on Jane's lost family.

But it's all stitched together with nigh-magical writing skill and some of the best pacing I've ever seen in a comic. The Grim Reaper's arrival unifies the Mephisto story and the Jane Foster story and transmogrifies them into the same story. And it all happens with one masterful line of cross-cut dialogue at the end.

Stellar art and colours do plenty to make this weird melange endearing. CAFU and Jesus Aburtov are working closer together than ever; the art leans heavily and successfully on nuanced shading to bring the very best out of the character art. The result is a credit to both creators; some of the character art (particularly in the final pages) is as subtly-shaded and three-dimensional as anything I've seen done by those all-in-one artists who specialize in "painterly" styles.

I want to emphasize that even setting aside Mr. Aburtov's awesome visual enhancements, CAFU is still packing the panels with insanely great details. From nailing virtually every facial expression to throwing in an offhand demonstration that Mr. Horse is shedding feathers in Jane's apartment, the artist is going above and beyond to make this book look beautiful.

This comic is a high-wire act of comedic absurdity, blending the ridiculous and the melodramatic into a sublime, hilarious whole. Where lesser creators might faceplant in the course of this delicate balancing act, the Valkyrie team triumphs and delivers an exceptionally "comic-book-y" comic. It's a good-vs-evil struggle with the highest possible stakes, yet it's also a shaggy dog story with a flying, talking horse. It all works thanks to the talent, effort, experience, and close collaboration of the creative team.

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
Let's just not think too hard about how often Mephisto's Vegas entrapment has been blatantly ignored since it happened. (His recent appearance in Champions is the first example that springs to mind, but I bet there are others.)