After a mediocre first volume, Eternal Warrior bounces back with an enjoyable story set in the distant future. Although the plot is fairly bare-bones, it’s fun and the characterization is strong. This may be the last volume of the ongoing series, but it’s a good finish which demonstrates that there’s a wealth of potential stories for Gilad.
Although the end of Sword of the Wild hinted at an apocalyptic future, Eternal Emperor opens with a fairly scenic beginning. Gilad is the protector of a small village, which includes his granddaughter, Caroline. The people are farmers because, as he tells the readers, there is no longer any technology, but their existence seems fairly peaceful until they are attacked by a robot, which in turn, triggers a nuclear explosion. The villagers survive, but Gilad and Caroline must journey towards civilization in order to find medicine for radiation sickness. Along the way he discovers more robots as well as the death cult from the first volume.
Much of what was wrong in the first volume is right here. While the plot is a straightforward quest, it’s interesting and is not overly-complicated with factions the way the first volume way. In fact, there’s very little in the way of background information at all; the reader is given hints at the events which caused man to stop using technology, but there is no outright explanations. Also missing are any real links to Sword of the Wild. Aside from a quick appearance by the death cult, this book really stands on its own. This is both good and bad, good in that it’s definitely “new reader”-friendly, but bad in that it feels so disconnected from the rest of the Valiant Universe that it, at times, feels like an out-of-continuity “Elseworlds”-type story.
What does work especially well here is Gilad himself. In the previous volume, he acted so out-of-character that it was difficult to reconcile him with the same character who had appeared elsewhere in the Valiant Universe. The Eternal Warrior of Eternal Emperor, however, is every bit the established version of the character even if this story does occur two thousand years in the future. This Eternal Warrior is compassionate, but not to a fault. He’s not bloodthirsty, but he doesn’t hesitate to take action. The strong characterization allows the reader to accept what is occurring and sit back and enjoy the tale. There isn’t much of a supporting cast–outside of Gilad, only three other characters are even named–but the Eternal Warrior is well-realized enough to carry the book on his own, and his granddaughter makes for a good sidekick. It’s possible Caroline is the daughter of Xaran or Mitu, although the reader isn’t given so much as a hint of this, so perhaps Greg Pak had planned to reveal this at a later time.
If there is a fault to be had in the story, it’s that the reader can’t help but feel this is incomplete. While Eternal Emperor is a fully-told story with a beginning, middle, and an end, in the context of the Valiant universe, it feels like there ought to be more. The best that one can hope is that Pak is eventually given a chance to the title and finish what he began.
Eternal Emperor is Robert Gill’s first interior work for Valiant, and he certainly leaves an impression. His style is fairly clean, although there’s a bit more detail than that of Cary Nord or Lee Garbett (on a clean/detailed scale from Cary Nord to CAFU, he’d fall somewhere in the middle). One aspect of the book that I appreciated is that the script allows for Gill to draw some very vivid landscapes, which is someone that one often doesn’t get to see in many of Valiant’s other books.
Guy Major, fresh off J.H. Williams’ Batwoman, gives Gill’s pencils an incredibly lush palette. The aforementioned landscapes are beautiful, but Major also excels during the few scenes in the Big Town, making use of browns to give the city a grimey, dirty look. Major is incredibly talented, and his presence demonstrates Valiant’s continued commitment to hiring the industry’s top colorists.
This volume completely assuaged any concerns that I had regarding the title after the first volume. While the disconnect between this story and the rest of the Valiant Universe may be a sticking point for some, it does make this story new reader-friendly. At the moment, Valiant seems to have forgotten about this timeline, but I really hope that they eventually return to it.
Originally from ValiantCentral.com