Did I miss something? Well, yes, as it turns out I did. 4001 A.D. is the continuation of the stories of the long-running Valiant franchise Rai. Rai himself has some degree of iconography, perhaps not connected to the world at large but rather to the comic-sphere. Rai, his precursor Bloodshot and the entire Valiant Comics lineup, as long as I've known them/it, has always been talked about as the sort of realization of the promise that Spawn and Image Comics was supposed to keep in the 90's. An independent superhero/franchise whose creators get to play with the interesting, out-there concepts in both art and story that set independent comics apart from their mainstream counterparts.
4001 A.D., I imagine, is a sort of stepping-on point for readers of Valiant Comics, both as the beginning of a new series of stories for the hero-mantle of Rai, and for new readers to hop on the train, as implied by its title making no reference to its previous lineage. I say that I 'imagine' because it's difficult to understand exactly what 4001 A.D. is trying to be, because after reading it, I realized that I wasn't exactly dealing with conventional storytelling.
Judging from the first three issues, 4001 A.D. is a climax of a story that doesn't appear, to the best of my knowledge or the extent of my research, to have ever existed. Let it not be said that 4001 doesn't have at least the intention to play with larger-than-life ideas. A malevolent, all-powerful AI named "Father" mates with a human woman to create Rai and then discards the mother, earning Rai's ire and causing him to become rebellious, which in turn causes Father to dispel Rai to the Earth below him. Rai is returning, however, to strike down his father, reunite with his love and free the people of New Japan.
So say the first ten-ish pages of 4001. The rest of the story so far plays out in a single set-piece, within 60 pages moving from Rai returning, finding his lover, fighting a giant robotic dragon in a mech suit and then dueling with his megalomaniac father. The story is reminiscent of the ending of Empire Strikes Back in which many characters, over the course of a short time, bring their efforts together across a futuristic pseudo-utopian city to successfully but tragically fight back against the power that looms large over them.
However, Empire had an entire two movies to set up the series of events whereas 4001 has exactly no time to spend on character moments, the coming-together of a team and, most damning, does not allow itself to be the culmination of a series of events, but rather the entirety of a story that seemed to begin long before the miniseries started.
Is there a series of events that could add context and drama to the proceedings? It's possible, I just don't know why it is that you would name the climax of the story something completely different from the events that led to it. In terms of the ethereal aspects of the story, the dialogue is decently written, if not a bit rushed, and the art is phenomenal, bringing alive a story that shouldn't have to depend on its art as the lone fountainhead from which the compulsion and interest in the story springs.
To those already invested in the Valiant line of comics and series, there is no need to fear that this is filler or that events don't move along. In fact, events move very quickly and immediately. To any hoping to find out more about Valiant and its array of heroes, there's not much to recommend outside of the frankly jaw-dropping art which paints a much greater, more dangerous, and more epic picture of this strange future than the writing has time for.
[su_box title="Score: 3/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]
4001 A.D. #1-3 Writer: Matt Kindt Art: Clayton Crain Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $ 3.99 Per Issue Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital