Every now and then Image Comics will break from its usual routine of science fiction stories to venture places not often tread: Manifest Destiny, W+D, Rat Queens, etc… Green Valley is one of those cases, taking place during the medieval era. Written by Max Landis,, penciled by Giuseppe Gamuncoli, inked by Cliff Ratherburn and colored by Jean-Francois Beaulieu, this book had a ton of potential going in. This expectation was matched, and even exceeded in some cases, with the art. Unfortunately, though, the script was a massive let down.
The issue started out with a slow momentum. Max spent a lot of time building up character relationships with monotonous dialogue, which is not a good sign for the beginning of the series. Still, I pushed on until I got to the actual meat of the story. Once the battle between our main character and the villain ensued, the story really started to pick up some steam. That being said, this is where the book SHOULD have started; you should always strive to start your book as close to the beginning climax as possible. (On a tangent here, this isn’t to say that every story has to have violence to have action; in fact, quite the opposite; action, to me, is anytime where an obstacle is presented to the main character, and he has to figure out a way to deal with that). As the script moved forward, I found little things that I enjoyed, from the writing, here and there. The scene between the main character and his girlfriend was pretty entertaining and heartfelt. However, this big looming shadow grew closer as the page numbers increased.
Halfway through the book it hit me, I have seen this same exact plot before, many of times over. This is the same cookie-cut story that every single action movie has used since the dawn of time: Group of undefeated heroes vanquishes an enemy; They are welcomed home with a massive celebration; The leader of the group ducks out to find his girlfriend preparing a romantic surprise; He expresses his longing to leave the life of war behind him and start a family with her; He proposes, she accepts, and they consummate the event; Awaken by an alarming sound, the leaders home is being destroyed by the villains he fought at the beginning; His fiance dies, his home is destroyed, and he swears revenge. Sound familiar? Now, I am not saying that using a troupe like this is horrible. In fact, plenty of great comics use generic plots all over the place. What makes them amazing then? Execution. They mask this conventional, overused, generic, plot in such a way that it isn’t so painfully obvious. This is NOT one of those comics. It is all too on the nose, and Max made no attempt to hide this basic story structure.
Thankfully, the art was gorgeous, which redeemed a lot of the flaws in the writing. Giuseppe killed it with the movement in this book. Whether is was the knights slashing arrows in the air with their swords, or women falling face first in a wine covered pig, he constantly kept this book in motion. The was no stagnation whatsoever, and he flowed smoothly from panel to panel. All of which Cliff did an equally great job capturing with his inks. He didn’t go overboard with pure black shadings, and his lines were crisp. Lastly is Jean-Francois. Most maybe familiar with his work on I Hate Fairyland, and those people I have to say this: get ready for something new. This guy somehow manages to switch from pure cel shading, animation style to this pseudo-watercolor rendering. It is gorgeous.
However, even with the amazing art, I still have to give this book a 2.5 out 5. Max’s work was just not up to par with the quality I have grown to expect from Image, which begs the question, how did his script get picked up in the first place? Needless to say, save your money, unless you really want to support the artists.
Story By: Max Landis
Art By: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Art By: Cliff Rathburn
Art By: Jean-Francois Beaulieu