By Fred Van Lente, Juan Jose Ryp, Jordie Bellaire
Legends of the Geomancer is a four book retailer incentive miniseries that reveals the origin of the Geomancer mythos. Helmed by writer Fred Van Lente, this companion series to the Book of Death is more than a standard origin story or #0 book. It functions as a prequel, with Van Lente crafting a unique adventure with new characters. The outcome will become the foundation for the current Valiant Universe.
Readers of the shared Valiant Universe will enjoy the implications of these characters. Everything from their names to their physical appearances seem to give a nod to future characters, but these are unique entities who have appeal all their own. Let’s hope that this miniseries won’t be the last that we see of these characters.
Book two of the Book of Death: Legends of the Geomancer doesn’t skip a beat from the previous issue, throwing readers right back in the middle of the action. Titled “The Mercy Tree”, this chapter of the saga lacks precisely that – as illustrated by the vicious fight and the recounted personal trials of the characters. But as proverbs say, there is hope even in the worst of circumstances. Anni and her personal journey is fraught with danger and death, but she and her companions choose to follow her quest in hope for survival. Anni, of course, doesn’t know what the readers do; that her quest will end in a sort of rebirth for her, transforming her into the embodiment of hope for the earth and humans.
Since this is a miniseries, the main plot won’t be resolved until the last book, but Anni has overcome her first obstacle as presented in book one, giving us some closure. Book two gives us insight into what has been happening to the world at large up to this point, then reveals a bit more about Anni’s own experience before leading us on the next part of her adventure. Amidst this, we see the subtle setup for what will become a standard in the “future” Valiant Universe: the concept of the protector.
Both action fans and fans who enjoy strong character development will find this book enjoyable. Amidst the action and adventure, Van Lente provides an interesting story and characters with depth. He mixes confrontation and tense moments with humor and throws in a few surprises along the way. The end result is an entertaining read that never once pulls you out of the story.
Artist Juan Jose Ryp and colorist Jordie Bellaire create such a strong visual feel of the sense of place that just by reading the book, making the reader feel as grubby as the characters looked. They’ve done an excellent job of creating characters that are simultaneously attractive yet realistically dirty from their hard scrabble life. For instance, Anni is very attractive, yet we see the rough texture of her lips, the dry and callous look of her hands, and the mud in her hair. Theirs is a hard, almost barbaric way of life, and Ryp and Bellaire pay credence to this by illustrating more than the token animal skins on an otherwise clean, modern woman. This attention to the details aids in keeping readers immersed in the story.
Ryp also does a fine job of illustrating facial expressions. His characters are actors. During one point of the story, Van Lente abandons dialogue and lets the characters’ expressions resolve the scene. Great attention to detail has been paid to Anni’s close-ups, from the slight uptick of the corners of her mouth in a pleased smile to the way her eyes squeeze shut when taking a bite.
Book of Death: Legends of the Geomancer #2 ends with another cliffhanger and promises adventure of great proportions in the next installment. Readers will find themselves easily submersed into this story, which was even more enjoyable than #1. The only disappointment was reaching the last page. Readers will be left wanting to read the next chapter immediately.