In honor of the fact that FEARLESS DEFENDERS AU #4 hits comic stores tomorrow, we decided to shed a bit of the spotlight on one of this series' central characters: Valkyrie. Valkyrie is not only the backbone of this team of Marvel super heroines, she is also quickly becoming one of the more interesting female characters in the Marvel Universe. When FEARLESS DEFENDERS launched a mere four issues ago many were surprised at the notion of bringing such an eclectic group of comic book characters together on one title. These ladies stem from very different parts of the Marvel Universe, and not everyone thought a team like this would work. Needless to say, FEARLESS DEFENDERS has been a pleasant surprise, and Valkyrie's crucial role on this team is not one that should be overlooked. When the book initially launched it became clear very quickly that Brunnhilde would be the one to take on the reigns of leadership, and even in her most vulnerable moments she has shown herself as being very capable in that particular role. If you haven't been reading FEARLESS DEFENDERS and you don't know much about Valkyrie, here's why we think you may want to dive into this series and get to know this particular character a little bit better.
You may not realize it if you haven't been reading Marvel comics since the 1970's but Valkyrie is one lady that has been around for a very long time. In fact, her first appearance was in AVENGERS #83 in 1970 (coincidentally, also a team book). Being a leader must be something deeply rooted in Valkyrie considering her very first appearance in comics was as a leader of an all female Avengers group named the Lady Liberators. We know what you're thinking, the name is kind of corny, and yes we agree. Let's keep in mind it was the 1970's, after all. And although she was technically the leader, this early version of the character wasn't the character that we know today. In fact, the very first Valkyrie was really the Enchantress in the guise of Valkyrie. Yet, Marvel and Valkyrie's creators must have really liked the concept because they eventually gave the character her very own identity. And rightfully so. Valkyrie's following appearances mirrored those of Thor in the sense that both characters have "dual personas". While Thor has been Donald Blake and Eric Masterson, Valkyrie has been both Samantha Parrington and Barbara Norris.
Valkyrie was first given a human identity when she appeared in THE INCREDIBLE HULK #142. In this issue she was not just Valkyrie, she was also a woman named Samantha Parrington. Different creative teams continued to toy with the notion of Valkyrie over the course of the next several years, but it wasn't until the character came under the pen of comics writer Steve Englehart in the late 70's. Not only was Valkyrie's character placed within another mortal woman, but she was given an entirely new identity: that of Barbara Norris. It was not until the character's appearance in THE DEFENDERS in the late 70's and early 80's that Marvel really began to explore Valkyrie's identity and flesh out her character. Many of her appearances throughout this particular series were also one of the highlights in that she had some pretty hilarious commentary, even if it did make her seem like something of a parody of herself and feminism at the time. Valkyrie's early appearances in this series are chock full of her belting out phrases like "male chauvinist pig!" mid-battle, something that certainly garnered some laughs (both then and now), but not something that allowed her to be taken very seriously. Following her stint in THE DEFENDERS we didn't see a whole lot of Valkyrie, and she didn't hold a very prominent role in the Marvel Universe -- at least not until recently when she appeared in Marvels SECRET AVENGERS series and even more recently as the leader of the FEARLESS DEFENDERS. During Fear Itself we saw Valkyrie play the role of team member but also leader when she led the U.S. Army into battle at the request of Steve Rogers, a responsibility that was not taken lightly.
It's safe to say the odds were sort of stacked against Valkyrie's character -- at least initially. She first came on the scene as an alter ego, and she barely survived the 90's with so few appearances that she made. So why now? What makes her so special? When it comes to female heroes Marvel has a lot of power-houses. There's She-Hulk, Red She-Hulk, Captain Marvel (formerly Ms. Marvel) and then there's Rogue on the side of the X-Men and the Phoenix which was very popular in the 90's. So what makes Valkyrie stand out? Her ties to mythology. Valyrie isn't just a power house (something we've seen demonstrated particularly in the current FEARLESS DEFENDERS series by writer Cullen Bunn), but she's also got a very unique mythology and that's something that Bunn has been exploring bit by bit in recent issues of her series. As we've seen in FEARLESS DEFENDERS Valkyrie's past is something that haunts her constantly, and readers who have been keeping up with the series have watched this fact come to the surface of the story. Valkyrie is not only trained by one of the greatest warriors of Asgard (Sigmund), but she is also one of the few Asgardians ever to have defied Odin to his face -- an act that is punishable by death.
Valkyrie is a complex character. Beyond the fact that she is a warrior and she will do anything for the good of the fight, she also has her own morals and follows a code of her own, something that has in the past gone against the beliefs of her people and her Asgardian heritage. It is these two things that truly make her a multi-dimensional character and serve to help her act as a decent leader. You can read more about Valkyrie in FEARLESS DEFENDERS and catch up on her past appearances by reading FEAR ITSELF as well as SECRET AVENGERS. What do you think of the current incarnation of Valkyrie? Do you like the character? Have you been reading FEARLESS DEFENDERS?