By Peter Milligan, Cary Nord, and Brian Reber
Decisions, decisions. One would think finding a newborn babe born under a blood moon and bearing its mark who is destined to become a peoples’ savior, would be a walk in the corpse-filled park for the Eternal Warrior. Alas, that is not the case. After having already reluctantly agreeing to this prophetic task, an unexpected twist occurs leaving Gilad feeling like a bewildered Let’s Make A Deal contestant, albeit an axe-wielding one. Picking up from precisely where the previous issue concluded, Eternal Warrior: Days of Steel #2 barrels forward with an invigorating thrust of action and a surprisingly layered narrative development. Plus, lots of stabbing. Got to have the stabbing.
With most of the set up out of the way (the Magyars have invaded and are fighting the Franks, Gilad is tired of being the Eternal Warrior but accepts one more Geomancer-dictated mission to find the Frank baby messiah…*exhale*) Milligan is able to really start structuring his story and it’s a vastly more captivating read than the first issue. GIlad’s ennui is still omnipresent, but instead of simply having him drone on like a melancholy monologist Milligan immediately forces a decision upon the indecisive protagonist. There’s great character work throughout this issue, from Gilad and his desire to “slow history” to give his choice a fighting chance, to the drunken Magyars and their taunts of timidity towards a certain young Frank. And then of course there’s the minstrel, a poet first and warrior never, whose future is in question. Milligan ebbs and flows the story beats perfectly, allowing for large chunks of time to pass quickly without feeling rushed or riddled with gaps and his dialogue is mostly sharp, feeling unduly heavy only occasionally. Script-wise, this issue feels significantly more dense and confident of its direction than last month’s and promises a rewarding exploration of this initial arc’s destiny-fulfillment premise.
Visually, the talented tandem of Cary Nord and Brian Reber continues to deliver on all fronts. There’s a great vivacity to Nord’s character expressions, an impressive balance between realistic proportions and ever so slightly cartoonish exaggerations. Close-ups are all wonderfully lively, while far-shots may lack a similar level of detail, but are always carefully balanced. A battle with wolves is particularly well laid out, allowing for movement to be conveyed at exactly the right speed. Nord outdoes himself with an innovative page design that features negative space and a crow silhouette that is absolutely stunning. Part of the art’s energy can be attributed to Reber’s colors being applied directly over pencils, forgoing the traditional inking stage. There are still plenty of blacks, of course, but event hey have a saturated sheen to them that helps highlight the broad palette at work. For a book that could easily be drowned in the muddy browns and reds of brutal warfare on a barren plain, Reber continues to add plenty of pop-infused fun throughout.
Eternal Warrior: Days of Steel takes a large and, more importantly, interesting leap forward with this second issue. Gilad is racked with self-doubt, yes, but both he and the story keep moving and turning in unexpected ways. Like the first issue, we end with a cliffhanger that should hardly have you concerned as to its resolution, but the promise of an underdog story paired with the internal strife of an axe-happy warrior is one that is worth your time.