by Greg Pak, Trevor Hairsine, Clayton Crain and Diego Bernard
[amazon template=add to cart&asin=1939346207]
Over the course of six thousand years Gilad Anni-Padda dutifully fulfilled his role culling scores of the living to maintain order between forces much older and larger than himself. He watched his children die before him; one at the hand of the other. He experienced the thrill of the hunt, the surge of the kill and the emptiness of their repetition. After six thousand years of wiping the blood from his blade, he quit. During that same six thousand years, the impetuous Xaran Anni-Padda went wild and tried to pick up the pieces of what her father abandoned. Now the various factions of the old world are at war with one another and Gilad and Xaran have reunited and decided the easiest way to return order is to burn it all down. Greg Pak and Trevor Hairsine soundly deliver this opening chapter of a tale millennia in the making with Eternal Warrior “Sword of the Wild.”
The opening act of this collection focuses mainly on character work mixed with the appropriate amount of sword slashing one might expect from a comic with “Warrior” writ large on the front. Large panels splay open to reveal massive battles against bloodthirsty behemoths, while Pak makes sure to develop the relationship between Valiant’s most dysfunctional family. Despite the battle scenes, the story still feels small at first, as though it is content to remain a standard (though very well done) fantasy based action tale. Pak’s Gilad seems despondent yet dutiful in his role as Earth’s chosen warrior and he favors his thoughtful son over his hotheaded daughter. Far beyond your everyday sibling rivalry, Xaran brushes aside what she considers her father’s foolish views of mercy and plows violently forward towards the demise of her people’s enemies, even if it means slaying her brother to do so. Reluctantly Gilad continues on through the ages serving in his role until finally deciding that he has been the murder hamster in the wheels of gods for too long. Giving up his mantle upon realizing that the rallying cry that “the next battle’s always going to change everything once and for all” has been and always will be a lie, he retires to a quieter and purer way of life. Until the impulsive daughter he long thought dead returns into his life, pleading for him to fulfill his destiny.
It’s this second act that really moves this story arc into a higher level. Pak unveils a much larger world filled with ideas of old world gods and their houses of followers consisting of vicious warriors, modern day engineers and mystical oracles. What felt like a slow start opens up a sprawling epic that is rife with potential, yet still comfortably grounds itself with scenes of wandering the aisles of Wal-Mart. Potential is the key word here and one that should excite the reader as to where this series can go. The availability of thousands of years of wars long since fought and tremendous battles between gods yet to come is wonderfully palpable and begs to be explored further. Themes of family and of humanity being the playthings of incomprehensible powers is reminiscent of ancient Greek drama, but is smartly examined through a more modern human lens. Gilad is content to be a hermit, but must struggle to acknowledge his role in a larger and timeless struggle, all while coming face to face with his son’s murderer. Who happens to be his daughter. One can only imagine what Thanksgiving dinner is like for the Anni-Padda family.
Complimenting the scale of the story, Trevor Hairsine’s sketchy stylistic art shines in action scenes with slashing swords and impaled torsos. Even the quieter moments of conversations on car rides and preparing for battles still to come are handled well and maintain the overall tone of a gritty somber title. Brief interruptions occur in the consistency of the art during flashbacks and are particularly welcome during the civil war flashback, courtesy of Clayton Crain who presents some truly great violently serene painted images. Throughout the first three issues the art is held together by the understated and wistful colors of Brian Reber, whose watercolor styling complement a murky and fantastical tone. Guy Major steps in on issue four, but doesn’t mess with the success of the established coloring and has some particularly nice moments with vicious bolts of lightning. Tone is the key to this story and the art does an excellent job of dictating where we are at all times.
If you had read these issues monthly, there was likely some sense of eagerness to get things moving, but reading them collected altogether really heightens the effect of uncovering the larger ideas and themes. Eternal Warrior earned its fourth star almost entirely by the potential hinted at by Pak; the thousands of years of stories not yet told and the monumental task of falling the gods of the old world still to come. Fans of Northlanders, Snyder’s Swamp Thing and any Conan will find familiar ideas presented in from a newer perspective and one that is shaping up to be just as memorable. Oh, and the main characters fire bazookas at a god hiding in a tree. That’s the price of admission right there.
Editor’s Note: You can pick this up right now in the Valiant Humble Bundle – Pay what you want and help out some great causes.
[amazon template=add to cart&asin=1939346207]