WRATH OF THE ETERNAL WARRIOR #1 (Valiant Entertainment, November 2015) Writer: Robert Venditti. Artists: Raul Allen & Patricia Martin. Art Assistant: David Astruga. Additional Colors: Borja Pindado. Letterer: Patricia Martin.
The statement has been made here and elsewhere that the best feature of the “house style” or editorial direction of the post-2012 relaunch of the Valiant titles is their ease of acclimation for first time readers. In others words, you can pick up a Valiant title anytime, at any place in a series run (whether it is Issue #1 or Issue #21) and not be lost. You can always follow the story and get a single-issue appreciation for the title.
That also speaks well of the artist and writer teams chosen to tell the story. The well-traveled Robert Venditti is such a writer. He can make you feel at home with his characters (although that applies more to his work for Valiant) and gets right to the core of his protagonist. The art team on WRATH OF THE ETERNAL WARRIOR brings the highlights out in a dynamic way. This book has a lot of heart.
The question remains: can a new reader who heard about The Eternal Warrior but never read a single word pick up this title and become involved in the story without getting confused? The answer is a solid YES. While other readers familiar with THE VALIANT, BOOK OF DEATH, and BOOK OF DEATH: ETERNAL WARRIOR will get even more out of this book, it remains a great launch point for the new reader. Issue #1 picks up from all of those titles but is a standalone work. I am very familiar with the character of Gilad Anni-Padda, the Eternal Warrior. However, I’m going to write this review as if I was being introduced to him for the very first time.
There are some fantastic variant covers available for WRATH OF THE ETERNAL WARRIOR. The most eye-appealing to the curious impulse buyer is the main cover by David LaFuente and Brian Rebur. In a glorious double page cover, a cloaked Eternal Warrior walks away into the dark blue shadows from an epic battle scene taking place in what must be Hell and brought to life in rusty blood red hues.
There is also a bold quotation on the front cover, a statement from a pre-release review by All-Comic: “Five Stars. WRATH OF THE ETERNAL WARRIOR #1 firmly establishes itself as the best first issue to come out of Valiant yet.” Wow. That is bold. While I think it may be true for many readers, others would disagree. My personal first issue favorite from Valiant is HARBINGER #1. Every person on the planet needs to have a copy of that. But, it’s a good argument. In terms of what it promises more than what it actually delivers, WRATH OF THE ETERNAL WARRIOR #1 definitely would rank within the Top Five first issues from Valiant. (By the way, the best introduction to the Valiant universe is THE VALIANT trade paperback. I’ve neglected to review that here. Something I need to correct.)
As seen in many Valiant books, the inside front cover provides a brief biography, description of powers and abilities, and timeline for The Eternal Warrior. It’s short, succinct, and gives a new reader all the background information they need to get started.
Gilad Anni Padda is immortal. He can be killed but he always returns. Over a 6,000 year life he has become proficient in multiple forms of combat and strategy, and is an expert tracker. In return for his immortality his mission is to guard the mystic protectors of the Earth, the Geomancers. Over the course of his long life, he has experienced his share of failures and seems pitted in eternal combat with a demon from Hell bent on destroying every Geomancer and returning the world to Chaos.
The story opens in Hell or whatever beyond dimension the demons inhabit. Seems that Gilad returns here briefly after being killed and before he comes back to Earth. A new character is introduced, a fan or follower of Gilad, an ugly talkative demon called Slather. It’s not the most memorable character created by Venditti but serves the purpose of updating and framing the current story. The biggest drawback, which may be an annoyance to some readers (especially me) is the dialogue of Slather. He/she/it speaks in stupid English, a hybrid of the way that Jar Jar Binks (Star Wars) and Gollum (The Hobbit) form sentences. A little goes an awful long way. In this case, less is more. Please, Mr. Vendetti, tone this down.
What serves as the long middle section of this issue is Gilad’s return and awakening in “home”, which is not defined by location or timeline. When and where is not elaborated. We meet Gilad’s family, or perhaps one of his many families. This is the section of the book that may endear Gilad as a flesh and blood character with depth to many new readers. The illustrations drive the point home in a beautiful, simple and quiet fashion. Employing as many as ten narrow panels per page, in scenes without dialogue, we learn just how important family and children are to Gilad. I won’t spoil it by telling any more. Suffice to say that one family member may have a destiny/legacy to be revealed in future issues. Kudos to the art team for the perfect atmosphere and using illustrations to say what it would takes numerous panels of dialogue to convey.
In quiet bedtime conversation with Leena, his wife, we learn of Gilad’s past mission (see BOOK OF DEATH) which led to his most recent passing and resurrection. And there are hints in the dialogue as to which timeline their modest home occupies. As the issue ends, Gilad goes for a midnight walk and learns that Hell is that much closer.
Issue #1 is an appropriate introduction and build-up. I have to believe it’s the calm before the storm. And it looks to be a nasty one.