Publisher: Image Comics (Skybound imprint)
Writer: Max Landis
Artwork: Giuseppe Camuncoli (pencils), Cliff Rathburn (inks), Jean-Francois Beaulieu (colours)
Release Date: 9th November 2016
The first issue of Green Valley introduced us to the Knights of Kelodia, four legendary heroes who, while becoming more than a little weathered after their years of heroic shenanigans, are still more than capable of doing what they do best. The style and panache with which our quartet managed dispatch a horde of four hundred bloodthirsty barbarians – not to mention the wonderful banter between the members of the team along the way – made them an instantly likeable group. However, things ended rather badly at the end of the issue (to say the least), with the aforementioned barbarians exacting their revenge in the most brutal, gut-wrenching way possible.
This second chapter sees some of the unpredictability that writer Max Landis promised from the series, as – rather than plodding on into a somewhat clichéd tale of revenge and retribution – we instead leap a year forward into the future to see how the shocking events of the first issue have affected the Knights. Once again, the characterisation by Landis is absolutely spot on, with the Knights now barely held together by their oath to one another, in spite of being fractured, broken and – in the case of Berthwald – borderline suicidal.
All too often in fantasy comics – and fantasy writing in general – there’s a risk that the scale of the story can sometimes overshadow the characters, making them feel like leaves being swept along in the narrative current. Not so here though, as Landis does a fantastic job of ensuring that we actually care about these four men, making the larger story feel almost secondary to their relationships with one another and how they goad, irritate and ultimately support each other throughout this traumatic period in their lives. There’s clearly still a thoroughly intriguing ‘big picture’ to come, but I’m genuinely thankful that Landis has used these first two issues to cement the group as individuals – and as a makeshift family – before pushing forwards too quickly.
The artwork is wonderfully polished, with Giuseppe Camuncoli’s detailed, expressive pencils, Cliff Rathburn’s confident inks and Jean-Francois Beaulieu’s rich colours combining to give the series a wonderful aesthetic that really fits the tone of Landis’ story. The closing pages in particular are a thing of beauty, with a gradual reveal courtesy of some inventive page layouts leading to a shocking splash page that – as I mentioned above – definitely hints at a more fantastical slant to the series as it progresses. The artistic team also deserve extra credit for the subtle changes made to the design of the lead characters during the gap between the first and second issues, with an even more world-weary, frazzled and frustrated look to our heroes a year down the line.
While this second issue doesn’t necessarily have the same razor-sharp banter or emotional gut-punch of the first, it still goes a long way towards establishing these interesting, three-dimensional characters and laying the groundwork for what promises to be a thoroughly entertaining series. Oh, and if the final pages are anything to go by, the fantastical aspect of this fantasy series may be about to take center stage in a major way. That said, knowing Landis and how closely to his chest he’s playing this one, I wouldn’t want to put money on predicting just where this story is heading.