By Peter Milligan, Cary Nord and Brian Reber
Gilad Anni-Padda is racked with doubt. After centuries of blindly following the whims of the Geomancer, he has begun to see no change in humanity and no point to the gallons of blood shed in the name of an elusive greater good. And yet, the tiniest spark of hope is enough to thrust him into violent action. Eternal Warrior: Days of Steel #1 is a promising start of a flashback tale featuring the origins of Gilad’s waning faith in his role.
Most of this issue focuses on the inner workings of Gilad’s thought process with Milligan utilizing narrative caption boxes to provide insight into the melancholy state our hero finds himself in. Taking place during a conflict between the invading and militarily superior Magyars and the Franks, Gilligan frames the narrative around the search for a Frank messiah in a manger…err, under a blood moon. Christ-like comparisons aside, the baby is to be the last remaining hope for an entire people. Milligan develops Gilad’s hesitance and frustrations very well, albeit a tad too repetitive, as he highlights that the fiercest battle is the one that is taking place inside the warrior’s mind. The dialogue fits well for the setting and the conference of broken but defiant Franks is particularly well done. It moves quickly, if not unsurprisingly, to a cliffhanger finish although the outcome of which is hardly in doubt. No, Milligan’s a smart writer and though events may move fast, he is clearly taking his time developing the larger arc of Gilad’s internal (and eternal) conflict.
Cary Nord and Brian Reber are a heck of an artistic duo which is made abundantly clear on the two opening splash pages depicting glorious and gory battles through the ages. There’s a smoothness and a sheen to the art, largely due to the coloring, that prevents this issue from being thoroughly awash in gritty self-pity. Nord once again proves his stellar drafting abilities and keeps the story moving quickly and ably with four and five panel pages. There’s a magnificent sequence in a cave involving a raven and flames in which the layout is particularly striking. His detailed faces are a great balance between realistic and expressively cartoonish, preventing the characters from ever looking like plastic models. Reber’s colors are vibrant, specifically the blood reds used for the moon, fires and, obviously, spurting blood. It looks great, but this art team really soars when depicting larger than life battles and landscapes, something that is in short supply in this first issue but will no doubt be found aplenty in following issues.
This is a first issue, undoubtedly, but it doesn’t allow itself to get bogged down in set-up. It certainly highlights the beginnings of a crisis of conscience for our lead character, but that’s also the appeal of learning more. How far can Gilad be pushed before he is broken? Too much time is spent reiterating the particular doubts (we get it, no matter what he does nothing changes) but it’s all still a valid and potentially rich interpretation of the character. It moves swiftly and still delivers the requisite action and conflict, but provides an inciting story element in a savior baby that Gilad may very well be playing Mr. Mom to in future installments. That alone should be enough to keep you coming back.