Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #128 by Drew Barth
Let’s Take a Walk
How often do we see things that no one else can see? For the most part, there’s always something floating in your vision that only gets harder to see the more you try to focus on it. But what about other things? Things that hide just under reality and could be revealed like they were drawn on a transparent sheet for an overhead projector? These glimpses into another reality are what we see through the eyes of Joe, a young man plagued by what he can see. But it is through his brother, Rory, that he’s able to deal with those glimpses into another reality. At least, until Rory leaves. This is the story running through the heart of Long Walk to Valhalla by Adam Smith and Matthew Fox.
For the most part, Long Walk to Valhallais a story about returning. Rory is attempting to leave the town he grew up in when his car breaks down before he can even leave the town proper. In the middle of rural nowhere Arkansas, he meets Sylvia. Sylvia may or may not be a Valkyrie sent by Odin to escort Rory to Valhalla. But before Rory can make it to Valhalla, he has to die. As he follows Sylvia to what would be his death, Rory encounters the visions his brother, Joe, still sees. But a distraction takes Rory and Sylvia off their intended path and instead take them down the memories of Rory’s childhood and the abuse him and his brother endured at the hand of their meth-cooking father and their eventual attempts at escape.
Smith and Fox know their medium well. Long Walk to Valhalla is the kind of story that feels like it could have been prose, but its visual language—from the creatures Joe sees to the long silent panels of scenery and setting—cements it completely in the comic field. This isn’t the first comic to talk about abuse or escaping said abuse, but it is still one of the strongest. There is a tone Smith and Fox are able to strike throughout this graphic novel—somewhere between mourning and hope that Rory embodies as he takes his journey—and it helps to inform every panel, piece of dialog, and moment where we encounter those strange creatures only Joe sees.
Long Walk to Valhalla thrives in its mood and atmosphere. There is so much here that is unspoken between the characters and between the creators and their audience that giving words to them almost feels like spoiling the story. As it stands, we can only bask in the images Smith and Fox give us and hope to focus in a little more on the things that try to remain unseen.
Get excited. Get walking.
Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.