That's a bit more like it, Spencer!
FINALLY, after 5 so-so issues of Iron Man 2.0 and a few likewise so-so issues of Secret Avengers; FINALLY Nick Spencer has turned out a script for Marvel that shows off some of his promise and strong character-creation voice from his indie work! It's taken about six months, but here, finally, faith in Nick Spencer from his strong work on T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and Morning Glories pays off at Marvel.
In this one-off Fear Itself tie-in, Valkyrie receives the spotlight as the story shifts back and forth between an origin story for her (the most in-depth modern era one I'm aware of) and the present day wherein she's escorting a squad of American soldiers into battle against Sin's nazi robots. The spotlight is shared by two young soldiers in love, who in a very sparse amount of time develop strong voices and a believable relationship for themselves that manages to really flesh out their back story with no exposition and very little information. Spencer's work on these "normal person's perspective" characters, whom I never expect to see again, is extremely skillful and I'm impressed.
The Valkyrie origin part of the issue is less impressive, but is still entirely competent. It casts Odin (the only other recognizable character appearing in the issue) in a surprising light and creates an impressively expansive scenario within just a few pages time, without ever going so far as to even say precisely where or when Valkyrie's home before Asgard was conquered, and it absolutely does not begin to explain why. But somehow that works.
I'll give most of the credit for this issue's strength to Spencer, but artist Scot Eaton deserves some credit as well. He draws Valkyrie with a strong balance between looking powerful and dangerous, while also looking the part of the mythical beauty that Odin imagines will inspire men to greater feats on the battlefield so that they might get to see her face when they fall. His work on the nazi robots is also quite impressive.
All in all, this is a very strong stand-alone issue and is the strongest justification for Nick Spencer's exclusive contract at Marvel to date. It's enough to make me more inclined to give his future work here a closer look despite being less than impressed with Iron Man 2.0 thus far.