Everything aside, Valen The Outcast was actually a pretty decent book. It didn’t wow me as much as I would have liked and it felt a bit rushed, but overall I like it. I liked the world that it created and the idea that the undead are kind of common place within the world. It’s refreshing to not see a Middle-Ages tale that is just giving its take on King Arthur or Lord of the Rings. In fact I would basically describe this book as “What if someone took King Conan’s soul?” That’s kind of what’s going on here, but it works. All the pieces play well together and have piqued my interest in the next issue and the series in general. The story opens with the battle that costs the king his soul at the hands of the Necromancer King. He’s marked on the chest which basically puts him in a zombie state controlled by the Necro King. But Valen is a bad ass and bad asses don’t take kindly to mind control and he fights back managing to escape. He goes to a friend’s place and her tattoo a seal on his back to block the King’s control so that he can steal his soul back. Afterwards he solicits the help of a drunken cheater to sneak into the Necro King’s kingdom to get the soul.
There is one very messed up part to the story so SPOILER, I’m about to ruin it for you. Valen faces his brother and the men he personally knighted and is forced to kill them all… it’s jacked up and you feel sorry for the guy, but at the same time wonder why it was so necessary. I suppose the men weren’t going to quit until one of them was dead, but it actually bummed me out. Honestly it made me feel less sympathetic towards his character since he just killed his brother to gain his own soul back. Although this is probably the strongest story writer Michael Alan Nelson has written, it was not without flaws. As I said it felt rushed, but also the story starts in the middle of a conflict without much narrative to catch the reader up. I’m not against starting in the middle of the story, but I had to read it twice to get that I was following Valen in the beginning and then latter at the tattoo. Two narrative captions simply saying “Then” and “Now” would have sufficed.
The art was great and artist Matteo Scalera really brings the battles to life. I found the battling to be quite engaging and very enjoyable to look at. In particular the scenes in which someone is being cut down with a sword are very stylized and their dark nature actually intensifies the gore of the scene. Scalera does a good job of picking panel layout in a way that keeps the story moving fluidly; you’re eye never drifts ahead due to this.
For a dollar you can’t go wrong with this issue, but I really think that the ground work to something cool has been planted in this first issue and that the second will be worth the full cover price. All the name drama aside this is a great book for Boom! to end the year on. It’s an original IP, it’s only a dollar and it uses its stable of talent to keep everything in company. Plus if you’re a cover whore you’ve got plenty to pick from, so grab yourself a copy already.
Writer: Michael Alan Nelson Artist: Matteo Scalera Publisher: Boom Studios Price: $3.99