Hey its event book, group review time! That’s right whenever a decent event book releases we here at Comic Bastards like to gather up and much like last week’s Archie #1 release, give our separate opinions and review scores. So that’s what we’re doing for Valiant Comics’ Book of Death which looks to shake up the foundation of the Valiant Universe. Let’s see what everyone thought of it.
Since their relaunch back in 2012, my love for Valiant Entertainment has gone from strength to strength as almost every comic they publish is a real gem. This remains the case for the publisher’s latest event Book of Death #1; arguably their most ambitious story to date due to juggling different time periods and a large cast of characters, there was a lot of potential for this series to fall flat. Fortunately, judging from this opening issue, Valiant has pulled it off again delivering blockbuster action alongside a thought-provoking story.
Pitting hero against hero is a plot device we’ve seen a lot in comic-books recently, but in Book of Death we see it done right. There’s a real reason for these heroes to be taking opposing sides, and the best part is I can easily see the argument from both perspectives which makes things very engaging. Writer Robert Venditti juggles this part of the story, while introducing a mysterious threat that it seems will take a back seat until the story reaches its end. The artwork by Robert Gill and Doug Braithwaite is very good throughout, with Braithwaite’s depiction of the Valiant Universe post-calamity proving to be utterly gripping. Ultimately, Book of Death #1 does everything that a first issue should do, and leaves me wanting more. I only hope that the series, and indeed Valiant Entertainment as a whole, can sustain this level of quality going forward.
It’s that time again, the middle of summer, when the big comic companies want us to jump onto a crossover event that they’ve concocted to boost their sales. DC jumped the gun a couple of months ago with Convergence, Marvel is slaying right now with Secret Wars, and Valiant has just arrived with Book of Death.
As some of you may remember, I was an enormous fan of The Valiant this past December-March, because it broke the mold on the usual event comic: there was a clear villain who attacked right at the beginning, clear reasons for why each character was doing what they were doing, and a clear end point when everyone could go their separate ways. Book of Death lacks the clear antagonist, though it is heavily hinted at, and since reading the solicits, the plot has seemed thin to me. A lot of this is because I remembered Gilad pulling a new Geomancer into our time, but I don’t remember there being much of a to-do about her bringing a book with her, much less the rest of the planet being terrified of it.
For a first issue of four, this one does set up a good amount of the conflict, but I still felt like I was adrift between things that had already happened and things that Tama has read in the Book of the Geomancer. I have a vague idea where to plant my feet, and the parts of the ground that I can touch seem super interesting, they’re just not interesting right now.
Gill and Braithwaite’s art is pretty outstanding, however. They get across simpler moments as easily as they do the horrifying massacres, piercing trees, apocalyptic hellscapes, that sort of thing. The art feels polished, which isn’t always the case in an event, and it is appreciated by this reviewer. The lettering font by Dave Lanphear feels a little cartoony for this storyline, but you get over it pretty quick--it just feels a little rounded and light for such a dark story.
This was a book that I wouldn’t have felt bad for buying, but it wouldn’t have been the top of my stack. For those Valiant fans amongst us, especially ones who have been following UNITY (it seems like that’s the storyline to watch, since I haven’t seen any new Eternal Warrior stories since The Valiant), this is a solid new entry. It’s not as good a jumping-on point as The Valiant, but it’s a solid read, and I think it will shape up to be an enjoyable story. I’m willing to wait and see.
Ninjak basically saves this issue, but then Ninjak can basically save anything he’s in. I really like the premise for this series and a lot of the moments where great, but the problem I had with it was that unlike other Valiant events, this one felt like it required previous knowledge of their stories. The other problem was all those moments. They kind of felt disconnected and didn’t exactly flow together. It’s almost as if the story needed more pages to bounce between and flesh out the story.
On the art side of things, it’s good. Like really good. That’s not really surprising considering there’s rarely a Valiant title with weak artwork. Both Gill and Braithwaite bring their A game and it’s clear that Valiant gave them enough time to deliver some of their best work. That’s surprisingly rare on any book, let alone an event book, but then that’s why Valiant continues to be a stand out comic company in my opinion.
Overall I liked it a lot. Since I am following all of Valiant’s books I’m looking forward to see how this will shake everything up, because it will. Valiant hasn’t pulled a single punch or hyped an event just for sales. Harbinger War had big ramifications and set the universe on a different course. Armor Hunters did the same and of course there was The Valiant which pretty much set everything up for Book of Death. And while I’m giving this an average score it’s only because I think it’ll be better going forward and even then it’s leaps and bounds better than the “big two’s” summer events.
It took me a while to sift through my thoughts on the premiere of this Valiant universe comic because I wasn’t sure whether I was just being a jerk about it in my initial reading. In that first reading, I found the comic a pretty generic start to what’s meant to be a course-altering series for the usually inventive and engaging Valiant Universe. Anyone who’s read publisher-wide crossover event comics from the Big Two won’t be surprised by anything they see here. You got your Chosen One from the far-flung future. You got the Believer who thinks the Chosen One can save humanity, and then you got the Doubters who oppose the Believer in spite of him being one of their closest allies. It’s one of five basic premises for an event comic, and not much has been done here to distinguish this take from the umpteenth others.
Granted, that’s all just plot, and any story can be elevated by the details and how the story is being told. However, writer Robert Venditti relies heavily on the series that built up to this event comic when it comes to believing that the Unity team have explored all their options beyond physical confrontation of Gilad and the time-displaced geomancer Tama. Additionally, I was perplexed that in a world of alien armor and immortals that anyone, talking to you especially Ninjak, would doubt the possibility of a time-travelling Earth avatar sent back to save them from catastrophe. Venditti expects readers to suspend a lot of disbelief in terms of why these two parties cannot talk things through thoroughly rather than give each other ultimatums and then flying away in a huff when things don’t go their way.
What I do like about this premiere though is the characterization of the present-day Geomancer David and Tama. It’s a great idea to start out the issue with an introduction to David on the day he first taps into his powers as the geomancer, and the glee with which he responds establishes him as an endearing child. His later actions therefore become more compelling when the question arises as to how he’s been thoroughly corrupted by his captor. Meanwhile, Tama’s playfulness and curiosity in spite of her current peril make her immediately likable. When not reading prophecy from the Book of Gemonancers, Tama’s dialogue exudes the innocence of a child, such as her intrigue in hippopotami, an animal I assume is extinct in Tama’s time. I have no interest in following the rest of this series, but if Tama ends up with her own series at the end of this event I’ll consider it a success regardless of the story’s quality.