This week on the Wal-Tor Weekly Review, Valiant Comics puts out the first chapter of “The Book Of Death”, Abigail Brand details the inner workings of “Siege”, and the Guardians Of Knowhere make their Secret Wars debut.
On Battleworld, a massive wall known as “The Shield” falls to the north of several terrible and destructive territories. The purpose of the Shield is to keep the inhabitants of those territories from invading the more peaceful ones located on the other side. Thanks to Lord Doom, the Shield is regarded as a type of exile for anyone on Battleworld who disobeys his rules in place, sending them there to serve the rest of their days as a protector of the other realms. Abigail Brand is charged with leading these exiled people as the defenders of the Shield, taking a militaristic approach to ensure the rest of Battleworld’s safety. The job is far from easy for Abigail, constantly wearing her down, but it’s still everything she’s ever wanted from life.
Kieron Gillen and Filipe Andrade give readers a slow rolling but thoroughly enthralling story with Siege #1. In just one issue alone, Kieron Gillen shows us everything we need to know about the lead character of Abigail Brand. She’s a character with a back story that makes her perfect for the situation she’s in, drawing from it for motivation, but it’s still not something that entirely consumes the narrative. This issue doesn’t progress the plot so much as it just sets the table for a truly climactic back half of the series. Gillen also cuts in installments from Abigail’s “war journal” either during or between scenes, resulting in these beautiful two page spreads that give you a sense of the struggles faced without ever slowing down the story. The artwork department on this issue is a wee bit of a mixed bag, as the primary artist in Felipe Andrade has an art style that will take you a few pages to get used to before falling in love with it. His style of art has so much fluidity that it actually exaggerates physical characteristics a tad bit too much during the first few pages of the book, before you settle in and accept that the art is solid all around. The multiple two page spreads, worked on by Felipe Andrade, Rachelle Rosenberg, James Stokoe, and Jorge Coelho do eat up a hefty amount of pages but they all still serve as being meaningful to the overall story. By the time you hit the second two page spread you begin to see how each spread thereafter only seems to improve on the one previous to it, giving you beautiful, sweeping almost mural like images that illustrate how awful all these years on the Shield have been.
|+ Character Driven||– Artwork is rough at the start|
|+ Great combo of artists||– Deliberately slow plot|
Gillen and the artist corps on Siege #1 do a great job of making a Secret Wars tie-in that feels as though it’ll be an essential piece to the crossover in a few issues. A character driven issue centered around Abigail Brand, we learn everything we need to about the character by issue’s end and it’s all thanks to the fantastic writing on Gillen’s behalf. The plot is slow-moving with good reason though as this issue is clearly setting the table before the big moments happen in just a few issues. The “cliffhanger” at this issue’s conclusion is enough of an indicator that things are about to kick off in a big way, even if that time isn’t right now. Felipe Andrade leads a stellar gathering of other artists on an issue he is incredible solid on. Within the first few pages you may be taken aback by his art style but I urge you to soldier onwards as his style on gets better the further along you go. On top of all that, there are some great two page spreads that are vital to developing the Shield as a setting and Abigail Brand as a character. Two thumbs way up for this Secret Wars crossover!
Guardians Of Knowhere #1
A disembodied floating head of a Celestial, Knowhere is a gathering ground for all types of species and races across the galaxy. Angela inexplicably shows up hunting down Gamora but instead encounters Drax and the two characters have a brawl for the ages. It’s up to Rocket Raccoon to save the day, as well as Gamora and Drax, as he tries to prevent them from incurring the wrath of Lord Doom. These aren’t your regular Guardians of the Galaxy though, as the many modern mainstays appear absent whilst other popular Guardians characters are sprinkled in for good measure.
Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Deodato try rather hard to get Guardians Of Knowhere #1 off the ground but crash and burn within just a few short pages. Bendis leaves little to be desired from his writing on this one, stepping out-of-the-way for Mike Deodato and allowing him to do all the heavy lifting. You can quite literally read the entire issue in about two minutes due to the flat, lacking dialogue and…well…the fact that the entire issue is basically one big fight scene. The explanation of why Angela is hunting Gamora just doesn’t ring through because of how little there seems to be going on in the issue. It makes sense but also makes you shrug your shoulders and wonder why you should even care. On top of all of that, there really isn’t any character work done in the issue whatsoever, with no one really going through any sort of dynamic change at all. Mike Deodato is the all-star of the issue by default as he does all the storytelling with few words. His action scene that he illustrates is pretty fun to follow but does leave you desiring more from the comic. Deodato is an artist you should always get excited to see drawing anything “Marvel Cosmic” related but when he follows a script as weak as the one for this issue, it’s hard to get excited about anything.
|+ Mike Deodato art||— Weak plot|
|— No character work|
|— Awful dialogue|
Whether you’re looking to this issue to be an all-new Guardians Of The Galaxy story or a Secret Wars tie-in, this issue is largely a failure at being either. Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Deodato give readers a comic that just doesn’t work unless you’re a diehard fan of Bendis’ work with the Guardians from the last few years. The dialogue is flat, there is virtually no character work and the plot is so paper-thin that you basically rip through it with your eyes. Mike Deodato is the saving grace here, being one of the most steady and reliable artists from the Marvel roster and that still rings true here. He draws a fun fight scene to follow for a page or two before you realize that, with how quickly the issue is moving, that there is no substance to this fight whatsoever. An admirable effort that just falls flat, Guardians Of Knowhere is a comic you should only read if you’re a diehard Guardians Of The Galaxy fan. If you’re looking for a great Marvel Cosmic story during the Secret Wars event then go read “Infinity Gauntlet” as it has a strong plot, solid characters and is even going to feature members of the Guardians Of The Galaxy over the next few issues.
Book Of Death #1
The Eternal Warrior has been charged with protecting Geomancers, mystic beings who “guide mankind and protect the Earth”, for millennia now but a great divide has begun to occur. Tama, a new Geomancer from the future, has suddenly appeared and caused great mistrust amongst friends throughout the Valiant universe as they don’t trust her. Tama carries with her the Book of the Geomancer, a great book that predicts the coming of a dark age for mankind. Members of the superhero squad, Unity, are given the direct order to bring down the Eternal Warrior when strange massacres keep happening in towns that he passes through. All of this links back to Tama and the Book of the Geomancer, all but guaranteeing some form of impending misfortune.
Robert Venditti, Robert Gill and Doug Braithwaite bring readers the next big Valiant crossover with Book Of Death. Although it’s not the perfect jumping on point for people looking to get into the Valiant Universe, the story is still interesting and enough to warrant picking up the first issue. Venditti does throw a lot of characters at the wall for this one, which can be both a good and bad thing. Overall, you get some clear-cut members of the cast to cheer for, making you invest in the issue the further along you go. If you’re not a frequent reader of Valiant comics you will feel lost in this plot as it draws a lot on the previous happenings in that universe. The middle of this issue gets dragged down by what almost feels like filler scenes but the book still opens and closes in dramatic fashion. Gill and Braithwaite have quite the task on their hands in this one, drawing a book that has a lot of character pop up. I found that again, the opening and closing of the book were the strongest in the art department as well, with the two page spread on pages 4 and 5 immediately hooking you into the story. The artists also have a strong style of sequential storytelling, especially during the opening, with their use of multiple smaller panels to draw your eye to certain details.
|+ Cool concepts||— Middle of book is all filler|
|+ Strong opening and closing||— Inconsistent pace|
|+ Solid writing and art|
Book Of Death #1 is a decent first outing for the miniseries by Venditti, Gill, and Braithwaite. Venditti throws a lot at the wall for a first issue and if you aren’t a frequent Valiant reader it will be hard to keep up with it all. With that said, there is still enough strong work done across the book to keep you at least interested. A strong opening and closing will help to propel you through a middle section that seems to meander along. Speaking of those three sections of the story, Gill and Braithwaite both shine strongly at the compelling opening and closing sequences as well. The middle section does deal with a ton of characters and they all look great but the storytelling is too soft at that part to truly enjoy what’s happening. With a solid first issue, Book Of Death #1 has plenty of potential to be a promising miniseries as it progresses.