Valkyrie: Jane Foster #7 Review

by Charles Martin on January 15, 2020

Valkyrie: Jane Foster #7 Review
Writers: Al Ewing & Jason Aaron
Guest Artist: Pere Pérez
Colourist: Jesus Aburtov
Letterer/Producer: Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Al Ewing's last dance with Jane Foster is a quiet little affair, mostly just a philosophical chat. As has become usual for this series, Jane is laser-focused on doing the Valkyrie job.

Which, today, means convincing the universe that death is necessary. No biggie!

Let me say, right at the start, that if this Valkyrie series hasn't hooked you, neither part of this mini-arc (#6 or #7) is going to do the job. #7 has flaws enough to turn you away if your interest is already flagging.

But if you have been hooked on Valkyrie, #7 offers some can't-miss greatness in terms of character and philosophy. Jane does a magnificent job on the job at hand, arguing eloquently in favour of death with points that are both personal and clinical.

She also touches on cosmic Marvel history (without even knowing it!) by accurately imagining a universe without death. Marvel has one of those. Its name, which Dr. Foster guesses, rhymes with "dancer purse."

This comic is at its best when it turns away from being a team book and digs deeply into Jane's thoughts and feelings. She is the consummate, compassionate doctor when making the case in favour of Death's survival. But the end of the big conversation, and the issue, touch sharply on the burning resentment she feels over losing her husband and son.

Jane knows Death is a necessity. But it is not fair and it is not a friend; it is inevitable and often disgustingly unjust. She respects Death, in this issue she saves Death, and, as she notes with bitter irony, she could be said to work for Death. But she will never like Death.

Pere Pérez fits the art to the evolving mood of the issue, smoothly transitioning out of the big cosmic weirdness at the start and gradually focusing tighter and tighter on the characters. It's a subtle artistic performance that's easy to overlook, mainly because Mr. Pérez does it so well. It might seem, at a casual glance, to be merely talking heads at the end. But not a single one of those heads falls out of step with the emotions conveyed in the dialogue. 

Colourist Jesus Aburtov also restrains himself to a subtle palette during the key conversation. The colours have an icy clarity that nudges the reader's focus onto the words.

But the visual creators get their day in the sun, too. The earlier scenes with Team Doctor offer them ample conflict, which they paint in vibrant colours and dynamic motion. Dr. Hussain's fight against one aspect of Death's disease is particularly epic, with a memorable visual design for the antagonist and an eye-searing dose of Death Vision colours.

I want to drop one last kudo on Mr. Pérez for adding some texture to Jane's big conversation by livening up the panelling. He turns the abstract setting into a three-dimensional puzzle-box with the panels fitted onto blocks sticking out of the background. It adds some welcome, but not overwhelming, visual interest to the scene.

Now, the bad side: Outside of the core moments heated by Jane's characterization, this is an over-familiar story. Death Takes a Holiday, leading at first to optimism but then dismay. It's been done a lot. There's a Simpsons version, a Family Guy version, it's a Greek myth, it's mentioned in the Bible -- if Star Trek ever uses the premise, it may be officially over-done. (My personal favourites are the Discworld versions -- and by my count Sir Terry told this story at least four times.)

Team Doctor's purpose in this issue is to run some of the basic plays from that trope's playbook, including "grief-stricken teammate is overwhelmed by the idea of resurrecting his lost loved ones and turns on his team." 

I take away the impression that the creators had an excellent idea for Jane's death conversation and embellished it up to two-issue size by idly playing with some deep-cut medically-themed characters. Though the embellishments are forgettable, if the creators were forced to choose between polishing Jane's part or polishing the team's part, they went with the former. And they were right to do so. Plus, as mentioned above, the visual side of the creative team steps in to amply bolster the team scenes with exciting visuals. The balance of creative effort works well to keep the issue as a whole from sliding into real disappointment.

I come back to where I started here: If you're underwhelmed by this series, this issue's weak points -- chiefly Team Doctor's shenanigans -- will reinforce your distaste. But the good news is, Valkyrie #7 offers an ample reward for those who have fallen in love. The character work lavished on Jane here is more than enough to make it a must-read for fans.

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Charles Martin's picture
I do love it when Marvel's Death gets meta-fictional. The cause of her illness in this arc? Too many characters have yo-yo-ed through the revolving door of resurrection, weakening Death and rendering her trivial.