Valkyrie: Comic Book Origins

VOICE OVER: Dan Paradis
Written by Selina Antonucci

Welcome to and today we're exploring the comic book origins of Valkyrie.

As with most comic book characters, there are many different versions and reimaginings to a character's past. We have chosen to primarily focus on The Defenders volume 1 issues 4, 66-68, 107-109 and 2012's The Fearless, issues 4 and 12.

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She is beauty, she is grace, she’ll bring you to Valhalla, the resting place.

Welcome to and today we’re exploring the comic book origins of Valkyrie.

As with most comic book characters, there are many different versions and reimaginings to a character's past. We have chosen to primarily focus on The Defenders volume 1 issues 4, 66-68, 107-109 and 2012’s The Fearless, issues 4 and 12.

Brunnhilde, aka Valkyrie was created by Marvel artist John Buscema and writer Roy Thomas, basing her on the Germanic and Norse mythological figure known as Brynhildr, the Shield Maiden. In the Marvel universe Valkyrie hails from Asgard and is a widely respected and honorable warrior. She was chosen by the Allfather, Odin to be the leader of the Valkyrior—a group of Asgardian warrior goddesses riding on winged horses—with the purpose of carrying the souls of fallen warriors from the battlegrounds to the afterlife.

In early issues, Valkyrie’s origin is fraught with confusing storylines since she’s inhabited multiple human vessels. Even Valkyrie’s first appearance in 1970’s Avengers number 83 is deceptive as this Valkyrie is actually Amora the Enchantress posing as Brunhilde to create conflict between the female and male members of the Avengers

Our first encounter with the real Valkyrie happens in 1973’s The Defenders issue #4 where the Enchantress, found herself imprisoned in the Dark Dimension. In order to escape The Enchantress performs a ritual by combining the body of a mortal woman and fellow prisoner named Barbara Norriss with the soul of Brunhilde the Valkyrie. After helping Enchantress escapes, Valkyrie, now inhabiting the body of a human woman, joins Dr. Strange’s superhero team, The Defenders.

Brunhilde the Valkyrie spent many years as an important member of the Defenders, where she learned to tolerate and admire her male teammates. In 1978’s The Defenders #66, she plays an instrumental role on both the battlefield and behind enemy lines. Valkyrie is given a prophecy by the Three Fates, who foretell an Asgardian civil war and her death in battle.

Becoming distraught, she decides to just skip the battle part and go straight to hell. She submits herself to the will of Hela, the goddess of death who actually has other plans for the fearless shield maiden. It turns out that Hela needs someone to lead the Valkyrior and fight against Ollerus the Unmerciful who wants the title of god of death for himself.

The prophecy that Valkyrie sought to avoid is, in the end coming true and the civil war has already begun.

During the battle, Brunhilde discovers her real body, remember she’s currently in the body of Barbara Norris, and is understandably as confused as readers are at this point. Upon touching the body, Brunhilde is incapacitated and the unconscious body awakens. It turns out that Brunhilde’s real, immortal body is inhabited by the soul of Barbara Norriss, who assumes the role of Valkyrie. Arbitrarily deciding that she wants to be a bad guy, Barbara tricks the Defenders into fighting for Ollerus against Hela, because aside form their armour, both bodies look exactly the same because plot convenience.

As the battle rages on, Ollerus is growing his army using the souls of dead mortals. Eventually Brunhilde, still in Barbra Norris’ body, awakens and makes a daring escape, fighting a dragon along the way. Possessing a strong army of human souls, Ollerus rallies them to fight Hela, claiming that she is the one responsible for their deaths.

When Brunhilde reappears, the Defenders realize they’ve been fooled by the fake Valkyrie and quickly join the real one to fight on Hela’s side.

Ollerus is defeated, and as punishment, Barbara Norris, still in Brunhilde’s body, is sent to the underworld Niflheim. It turns out that the death Brunhilde witnessed in the Fate’s prophecy was actually Barbara’s in Brunhilde’s body because apparently she can’t tell them apart either.

But wait, there’s more! In 1982’s the Defenders #107, The Defenders defeat a group of demons, Valkyrie is shot dead.

After seeing Valkyrie’s ghost the team holds a séance, believing that her soul is caught between worlds. As it turns out, because Valkyrie was killed in the body of Barbara Norris while her immortal body was still condemned to Niflheim, her spirit got understandably confused and remained between the mortal world and the afterlife.

Thus with no body to inhabit, Valkyrie’s spirit became trapped between life and death. Just as the Defenders resolve to retrieve her immortal body from Niflheim, Enchantress traps Valkyrie’s spirit in the enchanted sword Dragonfang. Enchantress uses Brunhilde’s souls as leverage, demanding the Defenders to do her bidding, and help her conquer the cosmic being known Love.

While trapped in the sword, Valkyrie recalls an old memory involving the Enchantress in which, following Odin’s orders, disperses the Valkyrior. The Enchantress comes along and promises new opportunity for the idle Valkyrie. Valkyrie quickly realizes their conflict of interest and confronts the evil Enchantress. Enchantress reveals that she has been siphoning pieces of Valkyrie’s life essence for her own nefarious purpose, thus explaining how Valkyrie ultimately wound up in a mortal’s body.

Back in present time, Enchantress, deciding to kill Valkyrie once and for all, has stolen Valkyrie’s real body, along with Barbara’s sprit, from Niflheim and plans to destroy them both.

The plan backfires when Love takes piety on Barbara Norris and frees her soul, taking it to a higher plain. Now that the body is empty, Brunhilde’s soul takes control of it and fights Enchantress.

Finally, after years of being under Enchantress’s mercy, Valkyrie gets her revenge by having Enchantress’ soul trapped in the globe of souls. Ain’t karma a bitch.

Now, finally fully restored and in her own body, Brunhilde confronts Odin, wondering why he let so much grief befall her. Odin reveals that he was punishing Valkyrie for disobeying his orders many years ago. He stripped her of godhood and sent her to Earth where she met and fell in love with Thor, who had also been cast out by Odin. She then lived as a mortal for a time until eventually, both Thor and Valkyrie’s immortal bodies were restored and the memories from their mortal lives were erased. Odin tells her he regrets his actions and offers Valkyrie a new place in Asgard. Valkyrie refuses, and, saying goodbye to Odin, returns to Earth to rejoin The Defenders.

Valkyrie has spent much of her comic book career flying under the radar. While she has spent some time as one of Captain America’s Secret Avengers, one of her most defining moments came in the 2011 Marvel Storyline ‘Fear Itself’, where she is once again forced to choose between her loyalty to Odin and her duty to the mortal world on Earth.

Valkyrie is commanded by Odin to collect powerful Asgardian relics called the Serpent’s Weapons before the Red Skull’s daughter, Sin can use them to destroy Earth. In a final stand against Sin’s super-weapon, the Final Sleeper, she is killed with a single blow.

After spending only a brief time in the afterlife, she is contacted by Dr. Strange who urges her to return to the realm of the living.

Valkyrie comes back to Earth with the Valkyrior and successfully dismantles the Final Sleeper and ultimately foils Sin’s plans.

In the aftermath of Fear Itself, Valkyrie assembles and leads her own version of the Defenders in 2013’s The Fearless Defenders.

You’d think that someone as strong and fearless as Valkyrie would feature more prominently in the Marvel universe. Still, with her winged horse, long braids and boob-plated body armor, she casts a memorable image.

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