Review: Valen The Outcast #2

There was one scene that I absolutely loved in this issue; it was pretty damn cool and very clever. The first issue of this series was good and definitely worth the dollar price tag attached to it. The second issue is also very good and worth the full price of admission this time around so don’t let that deter you from picking it up; especially if you enjoyed the mixture of war, magic and the undead! The story opens with some foreshadowing of events in which one of Korrus Null’s lackeys checks in with him. He’s hot on Valen’s ass, but in case he fails they have a back-up. Valen and his grab bag of people arrive at a bridge that is being heavily protected on the other side. Valen’s choice is to storm the bridge or travel a week around it. He chooses to storm it and is met with archer’s arrows which nearly take his heart out. He’s undead, but if you strike his heart than he’s done for good. This bad fortune results in the three of them ending up captured by Flemmyng, a stubby man with an army of his own trying to cross the bridge.

Outcast_02_rev_Page_02Zjanna is taken to Flemmyng’s personal chambers while Valen and Cordovan are left to lead a small band of villagers to use to cross the bridge. This is the result of a deal that Valen and Flemmyng made, but Valen knows it’s going to end with one of them double-crossing the other. At this point the coolest part of the book happens as Cordovan uses all of his money to bribe a blacksmith into making a protective casing for Valen’s heart. Then Cordovan carves open Valen’s chest and installs the sucker. It was pretty awesome.

There was one part of the story that I didn’t care for, but it’s the cliffhanger of the book so I’ll leave it there. I’m sure that the results will be pretty typical which in the context of the story is okay, but not the most original idea. The world and concept are so lush that I really hoped that the overall plot would be better, but it seems that Michael Alan Nelson always falls into the most obvious pitfalls of storytelling. He’s a decent writer, but if there is an obvious choice to make he takes it and it leaves very little in the way of surprises for the reader. Even still I enjoyed what the book had to offer and really my only grip is that sometimes I have no idea what a character’s name is. For instance I had to reread the book in order to find Cordovan’s name for the review. Otherwise he’s just the blue coat guy to me.

The art is very good and frankly does a lot of the work in making this issue good. Matteo Scalera is a very solid artist, but brings flair of passion to his work. I really enjoy the action sequences that he draws as they give the book a sense of motion and excitement. You want Valen to crush his enemies and that’s really what this Conan-esc book should be doing. The only thing Matteo struggles with is the character of Zjanna. She’s very inconsistent throughout the issue as it stands out from the rest of the panels.

I’m enjoying this book and I’m still looking forward to the next issues. My hope is that Nelson has some surprises in store for the reader down the road. In these early issues its okay to set the stage and have some of the “usual”, but that’s not going to cut it with future issues. If you’re looking for a good hack and slash sword book though this is the one grab.

Score: 3/5

Writer: Michael Alan Nelson Artist: Matteo Scalera Publisher: Boom Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 1/4/12