Poor Pakku. It’s hard to realize that you are not in fact a god.
I’ve been doing features of new Spider Forest members this past month. Today I wanted to highlight a comic that I was introduced to this past season that I thought was something special, and I wanted to share it with you.
The Blue Valkyrie is a superhero comic created by Emily Riesbeck and David Mitchell. Chloe Ritter didn’t know she had any special powers, but when a meeting with an old acquaintance takes a traumatic turn, strange abilities manifest in her defense. Shaken by the experience, Chloe works to find a new equilibrium, defining herself beyond the trauma she’s experienced and the strangeness of these powers that she is still learning to control. As corporate interests begin to clash with local activists and more people develop strange abilities of their own, Chloe takes on the mantle of local super hero to face the rapid changes turning her city upside down.
The writer is a queer trans woman and the story features trans and queer characters. Chloe is trans, and her relationship with Alice is one of my favorite parts of the story. I love how being different from what some folks consider “normal” is treated as an asset in accepting and embracing change. It’s far more than just “not broken,” but in fact part of an active good that empowers the characters to see hope in their situation. “I know this is weird and freaky and scary, but if anyone can handle it, it’s us.”
I will say that there are triggering aspects of this comic. The first chapter has an assault. Super-powers activated by trauma is a well-worn trope of the superhero genre, and there is a case to be made for that having troubling implications. With that said, I found the treatment of this piece very respectful and well done. The assault itself is not exploitative or gratuitous in its portrayal. Often when people write this kind of material, there’s a strange sort of…disturbing revelry in it. This scene is not written that way. It’s an unwanted kiss, the kind of thing that many people would even dismiss as “not really an assault” because it’s “not bad enough to count.” Except that it does count. It is a valid experience and a part of a larger problem in our culture. Something that seems exceptionally valid so soon after the #MeToo stuff that’s been going around in social media lately. I lost count of how many of the folks I followed shared an account very similar to what happens to Chloe. It feels very real and honest, not manufactured for the sake of “maximum drama.”
So I appreciated that this comic acknowledged that, yes, this is really an assault, and it does cause a lot of psychological damage. Damage that Chloe works through, in a process that I myself found very similar to what I went through in transitioning mentally from shock, to accepting the idea of being a victim, to moving beyond victim to survivor. To defining one’s self beyond that experience. To acknowledge that it leaves scars that cannot be undone, but that a person can grow beyond. Can perhaps even gain new perspective. It’s not exactly turning a traumatic experience into a positive one, but instead finding some value in a horrible experience. I really appreciated how all of this was handled and I cannot think of any story that’s handled such material better than The Blue Valkyrie.
If you’re a fan of superhero stories, but are looking for something a little different than the typical cis-white-male lens that tends to dominate the genre, I’d recommend giving this story a look!