By Greg Pak, Trevor Harsine, and Brian Reber
Barbarian comics are a unique sort, often following the character patterns of the forefathers of the genre. It’s nice to see a somewhat different angle on an accepted classic style, which remains true to its origins but toys with the formula. Spanning a period of six thousand years, Eternal Warrior has the potential to deliver some particularly cool opportunities for Gilad, the Eternal Warrior himself, to pop up during moments in history he may or may not be appropriate to appear in. Since this book has a more serious tone it’s unlikely Greg Pak will use this advantage to fuel comedic exploits, but not entirely uncertain.
Occupying most of this issue’s page space is the battle between Gilad’s people and the Death Cult of Nergal. This strife is well paced for the most part, and has an explosive vibrancy making the battle more lifelike. What’s most impressive and entertaining is Trevor Hairsine’s flexible use of proportions when warriors of the Death Cult are in the panel. Similar to skewed proportions in comics like Fist of the North Star, Death Cult warriors will dramatically increase in size compared to Gilad and his warriors. This variable size ratio adds to the drama of the battle, as suddenly enemies become a spatial metaphor for their implied dominance on the battlefield. Hopefully this precedent will continue in future issues as it adds a unique dramatic element which can be exploited to almost limitless potential.
Through the context of battle, Eternal Warrior provides us with a clear picture of the story’s major players. Gilad is a rather complex approach to a lawful, possibly chaotic good barbarian. He sees right and wrong with extreme clarity and follows the path of justice devoutly. Despite his stance on virtue, his hunger for battle provides him a comfort, (which obscures his lawful/chaotic alignment a bit), and may even be a coping mechanism to deal with the impending doom of his people and his family. Thrust into a “man out of time” pair of pants, Gilad’s modern state feels less inspired and hopefully is only employed to express to the reader the sorrow he continues to feel over his losses. Ideally his modern state will be quickly abandoned for a more creative approach, otherwise he’s essentially Wolverine.
Xaran, Gilad’s daughter, plays a type of foil opposite her father. Playing a chaotic neutral-ish role, she views actions in terms of ultimate good, but also seems to go off the reservation in the name of true strength. Her interactions with Gilad, before and during the battle, feel a bit forced, as if beyond blind rage Greg Pak had some difficulties pinpointing her character. Whether she is an ally or foe to her father remains to be seen, but regardless of her ultimate goals she will prove to be an interesting contrast to Gilad.
Although this first issue introduces us to the world which Gilad and Xaran will inhabit its focus is limited to characterization. We get a defined sense of who these characters are but little else. Of course, throwing all the cards on the table in the beginning wouldn’t leave much room for further development; not playing any cards at all leaves us with little reason to care about why these intriguing characters are doing what they’re doing. What can be taken away from this first issue is a good explanation of the title, but it lacks any reason why we should care about this Eternal Warrior in the first place.
The dynamic within the Eternal Warrior family holds some interesting possibilities for the future. Given Pak and Harsine are doing a bit of world building their conflict will be exciting to see unfold. This first issue was definitely a good start, but its lasting impact was lacking. A well defined world and characters may have been established, and a core conflict alluded to, beyond those details the read was hollow.