Looking Back At 50 (Complicated) Years of Marvel's Valkyrie
Dec 29, 2020
Based on the Norse mythological character Brynhildr, Marvel's Valkyrie turns 50 this month. Let's look back at the various incarnations and interpretations...
Marvel’s Valkyrie, an Asgardian is also known as Brunnhilde, is a super-strong woman with the powers to guide spirits to the next world. Based on the Norse mythological character Brynhildr, she was created by Roy Thomas and John Buscema and introduced in The Avengers #83 (December 1970).
Odin chose Brunnhilde to lead the Valkyrior, the warrior goddesses who would appear at the battlefields populated by mortals who worshiped the Asgardian gods and chose which of the dead combatants would go to Valhalla. She served in the role for centuries.
Odin cast his son Thor into the mortal warrior Siegmund and the latter committed transgressions leading Odin to order Brunnhilde to execute him. Seeing that Odin was conflicted by the decision, Brunnhilde tried to protect Siegmund, failing when Odin caused Siegmund’s death. As punishment for defying him, Odin stripped Brunnhilde of her Asgardian powers and immortality, putting her in a trance. Eventually, she was awakened by Siegfried, Siegmund’s son, and another mortal incarnation of Thor.
Brunnhilde and Siegfried became romantically involved, but he was manipulated by magic and betrayed her. Despite this, when Siegfried was killed, Brunnhilde leapt onto his funeral pyre. Odin brought both of them back to life, returning their powers, and their roles in Asgard, while also removing their memories of what had transpired.
Brunnhilde and the Valkyries returned to their work of ferrying mortal warriors to Valhalla. Odin was forced to cut interactions with Earth and that meant the Valkyries could only help fallen Asgardian warriors.
She met Amora the Enchantress and traveled with her for weeks, then when Brunnhilde tried to end their partnership, Amora trapped her with a mystic crystal of souls. With Brunnhilde’s body in suspended animation, Amora used her spiritual essence to steal the Valkyrie’s powers.
Amora used Valkyrie’s powers on her own for a period, then transferred the powers and Brunnhilde’s consciousness to Barbara Norris, a woman who had been trapped in a mystical dimension to help her allies, the Defenders. After the conflict ended, Amora did not end the spell that connected Barbara and Brunnhilde so that each woman’s essence was in the other’s body. Now stuck in Barbara’s body, Brunnhilde left the Defenders to learn more about Barbara’s life.
The two separate versions of Valkyrie – body and spirit – finally met when Asgardian warrior Ollerus tried to take over Valhalla. They ended up fighting each other and at the end, the Valkyrie’s body with Barbara’s mind went to Niffleheim, the realm where non-heroic Asgardian spirits were sent after death. Brunnhilde’s consciousness stayed in Barbara’s transformed body and rejoined the Defenders.
When Barbara’s body was killed, Brunnhilde’s spirit and mind were freed of the bond. Doctor Strange helped her retrieve her true body from Niffleheim and finally return to her original warrior form. Finally reconnected in mind and body, Brunnhilde fought Amora and banished her to the crystal of souls.
Odin tasked Brunnhilde with teaching the powerful Moondragon into a more humble, less contentious being. Moondragon reformed for a period, but was pulled by the influence of the Dragon of the Moon, and attacked the Defenders. Odin gave Brunnhilde additional power and she called other Valkyries to help her, defeating Moondragon.
A few months later, Moondragon returned to attack the Defenders with powers that had been improved by the alien Beyonder. Valkyrie and the Interloper used their life forces to battle the enhanced power. They also needed the power of Andromeda and former Defenders’ foe Manslaughter, combining their power to beat Moondragon and her allies. The conflict ended with most of the combatants dead, but Doctor Strange restored Brunnhilde and others to life.
During Fear Itself she decides to take the hammers used by Cul’s servants, known as the Worthy. Reverting back to mortal form, she is able to seal the hammers within herself, with the plan to die and banish the Worthy from human existence. In response, Freyja enlists her to select a new group of Valkyries, choosing women from Earth. She recruits Hippolyta, Misty Knight, Danielle Moonstar, and Annabelle Riggs to fight Morgan le Fey’s daughter Caroline who is leading an army of undead Valkyries. In this period, Valkyrie has a romantic relationship with Annabelle, who would later become the host of Valkyrie’s spirit. She joined the Avengers during the Axis storyline and fought Leviathon Tide monsters with Hippolyta.
In 2017, actress Tessa Thompson popularized the character with her role as the last Valkyrie in Marvel Studios' Thor Ragnarok. That version would go on to be repurposed in the comics the following year via the Exiles series by Saladin Ahmed and Javier Rodriguez. Even more recently, in War of the Realms, Malekith and his army invaded New York, killing Valkyrie and the rest of the Valkrior.
Despite Brunnhilde’s recent demise, the legacy of the Valkyrie continued on with Samantha Parrington. However, in recent months, Dr. Jane Foster -- Thor's once love interest -- has taken up the mantle of Valkyrie, with her role being a guide and ferrywoman to the dead. But she is not alone. Because of the King in Black event, Jane has united a new team of Valkyries (below)! Where they take flight next? We shall see.