Posted by: Joe McCulloch on July 12, 2008
The Goddess of War Vol. 1 (of 4?)
This is an impressive new project from Lauren R. Weinstein and PictureBox, the 32-page debut of a continuing series (or possibly a four-issue miniseries, if you believe Diamond); you’ll know pretty quickly if your local shop happened to stock it this week, since I can’t imagine a 14.5″ x 10″ comic is that easy to miss, even if someone tries to hide it. And at $12.95 you’ll be paying for that extra room, though I can assure you that content is packed right in – if anything, I occasionally felt overwhelmed.
Weinstein should be pretty well known to constant alternative comics readers; she’s had two strip collections out, 2003’s Inside Vineyland (from Alternative Comics) and 2006’s Girl Stories (from Henry Holt), both of which picked up some acclaim. Like many artists publishing with PictureBox, she’s also active in music – actually, the title character of this series is one she also ‘plays’ as lead singer of Flaming Fire. But anyone who’s familiar with Weinstein’s comics could probably guess that this won’t be any glossy, celebratory fantasy vision. Oh no.
Briefly, The Goddess of War is the saga of Valerie, a bold valkyrie who kept her post while more noteworthy mythological figues like Brunhilde and Gudrun fucked around, thus assuring her rise to prominence as head administrator of mortal warfare. Ah, but Our Heroine has since become overworked, unmotivated and deeply irritable, and one day decides to blow off work and get trashed on the blood of Mayan virgins. Sadly, this is also the day a terrorist attack strikes Times Square, creating a massive backlog of prayers for violence, and prompting several cosmic entities to go checking on Valerie, not all of which have her best interests in mind.
(er, that’s the most recent art I can find online – the grammar error is corrected in the book itself)
But nearly half the issue is powered by Valerie’s internal troubles, as she recalls egging on a struggle between an Apache tribe and white settlers, all for jealous love of the chief, Cochise. And the rest of it’s presented in a deliberately low-key, day-in-the-life style, which makes plenty of sense coming from a publisher that specializes in fantasy/sci-fi/’genre’ stories related with a particular emphasis on the personal touch, regardless of whether that touch has been declared ‘appropriate’ for said genre in comics. That goes for the storytelling in a visual capacity, especially.
So, just as Marvel’s early adventures of Thor were heavily informed by the cadence of romance comics, Weinstein’s own brand of Norse myth often walks and talks like a diary comic, following its very annoyed heroine as she groans about her life and her job, drinking too much, confiding in a hapless friend and tumbling onto the floor from romantic angst. It’s just the hapless friend is Nebulon: Universe Eater, a cosmic Cnidarian that gobbles down stars while wondering “Why does she always need a cheerleader?”
All of it, intergalactic phenomena included, is rendered in small panels with delicate, wobbly character art – everyone, appropriately, looks very soft, which works even better once the narrative leaps into its prolonged flashback, and the work’s tone suddenly seems more a stripped-down Jack Jacksonish Western history, except after seven (rather dense) pages of period distrust and misunderstanding there’s a flashback-in-a-flashback psychedelic sex scene, characters looping around a moment Valerie freezes in time. Weinstein herself freezes certain dramatic moments and establishing images via etching, but most often her alter ego is pliable enough (emotionally!) that her face changes to that of a monster when she’s mad.
It’s an interesting mix of narrative styles, juxtaposing the moment-by-moment banality of life-lived-now against both a world of star-crossed fantasy and a detailed vision of vast human history. I do think the lattermost of those gets maybe a bit too much attention; it’s effective to follow Valerie’s banal godliness with a more emphatic look at human warfare (the stuff she facilitates in between complaining), although the amount of observational detail at work slows the work as a whole. Which maybe was the point, since we humans have to live through these wars. Still, a VERY GOOD start.