The Valkyrie of Arkansas

Long Walk to Valhalla by Adam Smith and Matthew Fox. Archaia, 2015. 9781608866922.

This book was recommended to me by the most enthusiastic comic store employee I’ve met in a long time, at Sherwood, Arkansas’ Kapow Comics. Stop by if you’re lucky enough to be in the area, and play some retro arcade games next door while you’re there.

The graphic novel opens with two young boys at a pharmacy, where they’ve gone to buy some ephedrine so that their dad can cook up some meth. Rory is in charge. His brother Joe is somewhat out of it — in fact, we soon learn that the world as he sees it is filled with strange creatures, and that some of them are threatening.

Flash forward. Rory is now an adult. He’s heading to Memphis for a job when his car breaks down. In the field next to the road he meets a little girl named Sylvia who claims to be Maiden of Odin the All-Father, Valkyrie of Arkansas. (She thinks Arkansas was made from Ymir’s balls.) She tells Rory that he’s going to die that day and that she’s going to take him to Valhalla. He’s a warrior: he never gave up on his brother Joe and he dealt with his pa.

Rory thinks she’s lying until she shows him the world as Joe sees it.

The rest of this graphic novel alternates between a series of flashbacks to Rory and Joe’s childhood (their father is a real piece of garbage) and Rory’s walk to a church picnic where he sees his father and Joe. It’s a beautiful story about all of the crap that makes us who we are and how we deal with it.

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