Ragnarok #1 opens in a suitably operatic manner as Thor and the last remaining Asgardians hold their ground against the Midgard Serpent and the world-devouring wolf Fenrir. Writer/artist Walter Simonson quotes directly from the Icelandic epic Elder Edda and shows that he can still draw gods, trolls, and elves 28 years after his run on Thor wrapped up. Simonson’s artwork is incredibly detailed with each piece of armor, weapon, or seemingly mundane things like a tavern’s interior and denizen sharply depicted by his pencils and inks. His storytelling is a little on the methodical side, and there is a lot of zooming onto characters doing something, or showing them ride into the horizon for several panels while dialogue still flies. This isn’t a bad thing, but unfortunately, Simonson’s plot and characters are underdeveloped. He inverts traditional gender roles by having a female Black Elf called Brynja go on a dangerous mission to kill a dead god while her husband stays home with their child, but Brynja comes off as a bit of a Mary Sue and knows what to do in almost every situation. Simonson also doesn’t explore why Brynja would want to kill an already dead god that seems harmless (if a little spooky), but this could be developed in subsequent issues.
The writing in Ragnarok #1 isn’t bad, but it isn’t particularly groundbreaking. Simonson does a good job showing the relationship between Brynja, her husband (and former partner in assassination) Regn, and child Drifa and even makes the purpose for her dark mission connected to her love for her family. However, towards the end of the issue, Drifa gets psychic or prophetic powers for no reason, except to possibly heighten the suspense of her mission. And the characters that Brynja recruits for her god-killing mission are even more one dimensional coming across as either rapey monsters or strong and silent types. Also, why would she recruit so many people and horses for a stealth assassination mission? Simonson’s plot is easy to follow, but has a few holes in it. However, the post-apocalyptic world he creates for these underwhelming characters is quite comprehensive.
From the tragic opening battle onwards, Walter Simonson immerses readers in a dark universe where Odin and Thor are dead, and hell has literally come to Earth. The bleakness of the dusty plains he draws contrasts with the ornate nature of Brynja and other characters’s armor. This is a world where only the best warriors survive, and deadly trolls amble around. Even if the majority of Ragnarok #1 doesn’t reach the epic heights of the first five pages, Simonson still has a few surprises up his sleeve and a command of a sense of scale to show how small Brynja and her fellow assassins (including a hulking monster or two) are in comparison with these ruined cities. And unlike some older artists, Simonson’s work goes well with modern coloring techniques, and colorist Laura Martin uses a cold blue to show the peaceful, yet violent nature of the Black Elves and even uses this color in the sky for the first day of Brynja’s journey. She also uses a mix of different colors that remind readers of the Rainbow Bridge to Asgard for any magical energy from Thor’s last stand onwards. Ragnarok #1 has one dimensional characters and a couple plot holes, but Simonson hasn’t lost any skill in the art department, especially when he draws creatures, weapons, and armor from Norse mythology.