“Nothing can prepare you for where this goes, or why it goes there…”
I can only assume the reason Max Landis, the prolific young writer who’s best known for penning the screenplay for Chronicle, feels the need to include this statement in the back pages of his new series for Image Comics is that he’s aware that a lot of readers may finish it and wonder what it is exactly that they’ve let themselves in for.
Green Valley #1 is an exercise in rug pulling, with 80% of the issue devoted to setting up a world that Landis and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli then spend the last few pages utterly destroying. On those terms, it’s undeniably effective too.
The opening pages are filled with chucklesome, naturalistic dialogue and obnoxiously pleasant scenery – the bluest of blue skies and greenest of green grasses. In these surroundings we meet the Knights of Kelodia – a band of four warriors so skilled that they seem to be the Kingdom of Erskine’s only defence against any would-be exterior threats. They meet an oncoming horde of 400 barbarians with sarcastic quips, studied indifference, pointed threats, and a single well-aimed arrow. After seeing the barbarians off in their own fashion they return for the customary congratulatory feast in the presence of their beloved King.
All is well, especially for Sir Bertwald, the eldest of the four knights, who even plucks up the courage to propose to the love of his life and contemplates his retirement before going to bed a happy man in a happy kingdom. The aforementioned rug pulling that follows is so swift and brutal that I was convinced for the first few panels that it was just a nightmare sequence depicting Sir Bertwald’s inner fears and anxieties. It’s rendered with horrifying detail by Camuncoli, who makes the most of the stark contrast with the cheerful opening pages.
What will happen next is anyone’s guess, and that is clearly what Landis is banking on here. I’m intrigued, but with only this one issue to judge on so far, unlike Landis I can’t say with any confidence that this will be a ride worth taking. None of the Knights of Kelodia are especially compelling or likeable characters, the setting is a generic riff on Medieval Europe (albeit with no sign yet of typical fantasy fodder like dragons and wizards) and as much as I enjoyed the humour in the opening scenes, I worry that it was mostly there to lull the reader into a false sense of security rather than serve as an indicator of the book’s overall tone.
Green Valley #1 clearly achieves what Landis and co. set out to do. The trouble is, for now at least, I’m left slightly unsure as to what exactly that is.
- Good humour (while it lasts)
- Strong cliffhanger ending
- Generic setting
- Somewhat unlikeable characters