There’s a saying that one should never judge a book by its cover. As a librarian, I hate that statement. I agree with the intent – that one should judge not by outward appearances but by inner depth, yet it seems a bit silly to use books as the metaphorical object for making that point. The publishing industry invests millions of dollars every year to conduct market research and pays professional artists in order to ensure that their books have nice covers that will attract people’s attention and, presumably, inspire them to buy their books. That’s three whole industries – marketing, management and art – that depend upon people judging books by their covers.
Why am I picking apart this old cliché? Because when I first saw the cover of Power of the Valkyrie, I must admit I became rather judgmental. Well, what else am I supposed to think when presented with a buxom blonde in scanty armor (if by armor you mean a metal corset and a pair of dangerously low-cut hot-pants), with a come-hither look, pencil-thin arms, and cleavage you could ski down, holding a sword that would make Cloud Strife say “that seems impractically big”? If you’re anything like me, you’d probably presume – judging the cover – this title was written for no purpose other than to showcase the artist’s skill in drawing attractive women that are not wearing very much clothing.
Dear Reader, it’s much worse than that. You’re presuming that the artist has the ability to draw attractive women not wearing much clothing in the first place.
Calling Craig Yeung’s grasp of female anatomy “bad” would be understating it. Abysmal is a far more accurate word and much more fun to say. I could, on some level, forgive the blatant cheesecake if it was drawn well. But it is not. And Yeung’s incompetence goes far beyond that, his artwork being rife with continuity errors to boot! I dare say one could create a fine drinking game with this book, taking a sip every time Yeung draws Odin with one-eye in the close-ups only to draw him with two-eyes in the long shots or each occasion that The Valkyrie’s winged horse is depicted without wings.
That brings to another interesting point. The world of this story is a mishmash of random mythological elements mixed together and changed (frequently) for no apparent reason. I could deal with the horse of The Valkyrie specifically being named Pegasus (a specific winged horse from Greek Mythology), but I will not stand for Odin’s familiars Thought and Memory being specifically depicted – in the text and the artwork – as black eagles rather than ravens. At one point, our heroine tries to throw away her magic sword like Excalibur and she is pursued by Christian demons, who disguise themselves as Scully and Mulder from The X-Files.
The plot of the book – such as it is – will be familiar territory to anyone who has ever read a Marvel Comics’ Thor book. Indeed, the whole story reads like a rejected script for “What If Jane Foster Was Given The Power Of Thor?” Our heroine is a nurse named Susan or Suzanne depending on what chapter we’re in. She is given the vaguely defined power of The Valkyrie after her car crashes into Odin, who was teleported away from Asgard to prevent the power from falling into Loki’s hands. Why Odin or the many warriors surrounding him at the time couldn’t just fight Loki is never explained.
Despite this transfer being accidental and Odin having been seconds away from bequeathing the power to the warrior woman Emu, before Loki showed up, Odin decrees that Susan/Suzanne will wield the Valkyrie power and be trained in its use by Thor. But it turns out Emu was in league with Loki the whole time and already plotting to overthrow Odin! So Loki completely sabotaged his own plans by attacking Emu’s empowerment ceremony. This is but the first of many plot holes this book has.
All that being said, you still can’t judge a book by its cover…because this book is so much worse than its cover. The story and characters are lawsuit fodder for Marvel Comics. The writing is terrible, with the authors’ unable to keep the name of their own heroine straight. And the artwork is amateurish, at best.