Convinced the unnatural disasters tearing our world apart are a direct result of the new Geomancer’s arrival, the combined forces of the Valiant Universe are forced to confront the Eternal Warrior about his new charge. But to prevent civilization from falling into a new Dark Age, the Eternal Warrior won’t go down without a fight! Valiant architect Robert Venditti (X-O MANOWAR) and rising star Robert Gill (ARMOR HUNTERS: HARBINGER) bring you the next chapter in the summer blockbuster that promises to alter the Valiant Universe as you know it! Plus: new visions of the future that awaits – illustrated by superstar artist Doug Braithwaite (IMPERIUM)!
Valiant’s Book of Death is the publisher’s newest event series coming in at a cool four-issues meaning that the story doesn’t require much of a commitment. Pepper in the fact that the series’ limited number of tie-ins are hardly required and things are looking pretty good. In addition, only a base knowledge of the Valiant Universe is required to fully enjoy and appreciate the story being told; Robert Venditti utilizes the small cast of team Unity and a few other new characters that are being welcomed into the Valiant world through this title.
The basic plot of the story goes as follows: Gilad, the Eternal Warrior (think an immortal Conan) is trying to protect Tama, the new Geomancer (think Aang from Avatar), who is a young child carrying a book that can see the future. The rest of team Unity (think Valiant’s Avengers) doesn’t like the fact what Gilad has exclusive access to the future and a powerful child. Simultaneously, the Earth has started to rapidly atrophy, forcing the heroes to attempt to discover what is causing the blight while also subtly trying to kill each other. As you can see, the Valiant Universe is a fun place to live in right now.
The first thing that readers are bound to notice about this second installment of Book of Death is Cary Nord’s cover. The image depicts a tense moment between two of the major players of the story: Gilad (as mentioned earlier) and Ninjak the British Ninja. The pair isn’t on the best of terms at the moment, as they are caught on opposite sides of one of the story’s conflicts. Throughout the issue, Venditti finally gets the opportunity to flesh out the real story behind Ninja’s motivations. He takes the time to explore themes that have been building in the greater world of team Unity for some time as the heroes explore what the the government’s true intentions and what sort of choices and decisions forced them to turn arms against former members of the team. The story evokes Ultimates 2 by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch, a comic book that explores the motivations of the government and what it means to be an American after 9/11. While Book of Death may not have the time to devote that much attention to this subplot, it’s still an important piece of the DNA of this story and the Valiant version of MI-6.
When we interviewed Venditti earlier this summer, the author mentioned all the plans he had for Gilad’s axe in his upcoming Eternal Warrior comic. This story shows off a few of the skills that we can expect from that comic, as Gilad utilizes his territory, environment, and weapon set during combat. While neither Gilad’s nor Ninjak’s motivations for the big fight this issue are clearly established, I applaud Venditti for being able to get inside the head of Gilad and come up with so many interesting ideas per page. The way that these characters start to mesh with each other is creative and inspired and the dialogue is minimalist and captivating. It’s a shame that there isn’t more motivation behind this scene’s existence.
Unfortunately, there are a few other scenes that seem to have rushed motivations as well. It’s hard to know how to feel about the book when you appreciate lots of other major plot points and are simultaneously disappointed by them. However, in the grand scheme of Book of Death, the conflict within this issue is strong.
Robert Gill’s artwork is clean, but a little scratchy here and there. His lines are quite perfectly straight, fitting the tone of a horror comic like this one. The actions scenes in this comic are fluid and precise, proving that Gill has a great sense of kinetic energy and movement that allows the comic to have a wide visual scope. More importantly, Gill utilizes the horror sequences near the conclusion of the story to provide a change in tone.
Doug Braithwaite’s sequences are spellbinding, evoking images that perfectly supplement his artwork. This also proves something positive about the groundwork of Venditti’s script: he seems perfectly comfortable in writing for each artist and giving them both what they are best at.
Aside for some minor quibbles, it seems that Robert Venditti, Robert Gill and Doug Braithwaite are on the right track towards making this a Valiant event to remember — one that may be able to surpass the heights of Armor Hunters and Harbinger Wars. Sometimes a story can be greater than the sum of its parts.