As comic readers, we are difficult to please when it comes to summer event story arcs. That's likely due to these events frequently disappointing us. They are sold to us as containing far-reaching consequences, but that's rarely carried through in the text. We've come to expect big, lumbering, and unwieldy multi-part stories that span way too many pages and feature far too few moments of genuine characterization. The casts are bloated and the stories get buried under mounds of action. So with some understandable trepidation, I’m eager to see where the 4001 event goes. With 4001 A.D. #1 Valiant does an excellent job leveraging their shared universe to engineer a grand story that may actually earn the overused term "epic". Issue one opens with a beautifully rendered recap reminding you of the story of Rai, former defender of New Japan. But this isn't just Rai's story. It is the story of consequence and responsibility on a massive scale. Young Lula was introduced to us back in Rai #1 as a fangirl, stricken by the presence of New Japan's divinely created protector. Now, having been exposed to a greater truth surrounding her sheltered existence, Lula has become one of the most dangerous villains of her culture. Whole chunks of the floating city of New Japan are being sheered away and discarded because of her. After writer Matt Kindt gives us the image of some ill-fated dinosaur hunter (no, not that one) consigned to the burning death of reentry, we spend a significant amount of time following Lula's bittersweet farewell to her home and family. Then three warriors board a gigantic battle suit to put down a mad space god.
You can easily imagine this entire story being planned around a few of Clayton Crain's illustrations. Crain struggles with figures and faces, often glossing over details of foreshortening and facial expression. However, given a great big page and a script of science fiction spectacle, Crain excels. As Rai and friends gaze upon a massive mech suit, there's a strong sense of reverence for the impact the past has had on current events. And when they break atmosphere to save a limb broken away from the shrinking body of New Japan, the scene is rendered in appropriate grandeur.
In scenes like the one described above Kindt pulls back to let awe and terror overtake you, reminding you of the huge consequences resulting from the actions of very few. But he's careful to emphasize the human cost of these events, zooming in to Lula's now demolished home life.
I don't know how much of 4001 will take place in space or how much will be dedicated to the Rai/Father battle. And without looking ahead at Valiant's publishing schedule, I can only guess who will poke their head in on this event. Pretty much anything could happen. Issue one has my interest and my attention because I'm a fan of thoughtfully doled out bombast; 4001 has some to spare. This event is off to a good start.
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4001 A.D. #1 Writer: Matt Kindt Artist: Clayton Crain and David Mack Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 5/4/16 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital