By Peter Milligan, Cary Nord, and Brian Reber
Faith is a funny thing and the Geomancer works in mysterious ways. Sometimes having faith requires more than just blind devotion; sometimes it needs a little blood and elbow grease to get moving into something fruitful. And thus, we have the conclusion to Peter Milligan, Cary Nord, and Brian Reber’s destiny-examining arc with Eternal Warrior: Days of Steel #3. What at first may come across as a simple, and almost quaint, tale from a brief moment in the eternal life of Gilad Anni-Padda, reveals itself as a sharp, poetic song of a comic that’s so much more than a violent tale of mistaken identity.
Told primarily through the narration boxes of Gilad’s continuing doubt, this issue follows the mixed outcome of his decision in the previous issue to choose the weaker of two moon-marked babes to anoint as a savior to a struggling, fading people. The story is systematic in delivery, with its blunt matter-of-fact descriptions of the stark sequence of events. Gilad believes he has erred and there’s little evidence to the contrary as Falk’s ineptitude in battle reasserts his growing dread. Gilad is who he is, a battle-weary warrior resigned to spin in his wheel of violence at the behest of a crow, but one who is feeling more and more drained by the day and his recent failure is made all the worse by a brief glimmer of renewed help at the issue’s onset. And yet, it flows smoothly and believably to its unpredictable end despite destiny’s assurance that is as it should be. Milligan deftly manages to inject moments of genuine surprise in delivering what was foregone conclusion, and though the characters outside of Gilad are primarily one-dimensional, it’s forgiven since the story itself was never meant to be a character piece outside of his own crisis of faith. Is it brilliant, thought-provoking stuff? Not really, no. But it is a great bit of thematic writing that examines both the nature of faith and a facet of what makes the Eternal Warrior continue down his well-trodden path.
Cary Nord continues to excel with his cartooning; specifically the elastic, expressive facial movements that allow for greatly conveyed senses of horror, despair and solemnity. Much like in the prior two issues, the fine line work of his close-ups continue to befuddle considering the lack of detail on wider shots that have a flatness to them that often look as though they were hastily done. There’s no doubt Nord is a talented, more than competent artist and when incorporating shadow, his images reflect great depth and emotion, but sadly the consistency in which this skill is employed is lacking. In action, Nord’s art shows great fluidity, moving the reader’s eye from panel to panel with every swing of the axe and flailing limb, and it matches the tone of Milligan’s script in that this is not intended to solely be a violent, brainless affair, but rather, a book where words and art rhythmically move together. Brian Reber’s colors certainly reinforce this idea with their bright, smooth and almost blurring effect. While the mostly contribute to the bold and hopeful nature of the story at hand, there’s a particularly striking sequence at the half-way point featuring some staked heads that is absolutely gorgeous (Nord’s pencils here are also at their peak) in their bleak, grayed and ashen glory.
Eternal Warrior: Days of Steel #3 ends this arc on a high-note by cleverly revealing itself to be a story about what it means to believe in something despite all evidence to the contrary. Its poetic structure and tone surprises, if not really thrills, the reader to further question why Gilad does what he does and how it affects the world and its people that surround him. It’s certainly worth your time if you’re a fan of the character, but is also welcoming enough to those less familiar with him. Give it a shot and let your faith be rewarded.