Valiant Femmes: Anni and the Forbidden Fruit

[Note: This article contains spoilers for Legends of the Geomancer #1 and #2.]

Book of Death: Legends of the Geomancer is a retailer incentive companion book to Book of Death. It takes readers back to the beginning – where the Geomancer legacy began. Written by Fred Van Lente with art from Juan José Ryp and Jordie Bellaire, this four-book miniseries introduces several new characters, the most notable being Anni.

Anni may be one of the most important Valiant Femmes to date. She’s definitely the first. She’s a bit of an enigma. Let’s examine what we know of her life.

In the time before Geomancers existed, shamans guided their people and communed with nature. Anni is the shaman for her tribe, led by the brutal Nergal. If that name sounds familiar, refer back to the 2013 Eternal Warrior series. Nergal was a death god whose cult followers brought chaos and death to the earth. In that series, the Eternal Warrior battled against them in the distant past and the far future.

BOD-GEOMANCER_003_001

Art by Juan José Ryp

In Legends, Nergal is a domineering, murderous man and not yet a god. The earth seems to have turned against Nergal and his men, killing them with unusual acts of nature. Believing that the shaman Anni is to blame for this, Nergal sentences her to death. Anni is forced to march for days to her own ritual sacrifice. Along the way, many of Nergal’s men are killed by such oddities as killer plants and enormous birds. Whether through luck or by design, Anni is spared the capriciousness of the Earth.

It’s no wonder that Nergal sees the Earth as something he needs to kill. In the future, his hordes seek annihilation, damaging and destroying nature whenever possible. At this point, Anni doesn’t have a special affinity with the earth, but she is a sensitive.

Through Anni’s interactions with one of her fellow tribesmen, Padda – you read that correctly – Padda, as in Anni-Padda – we learn a bit more about Anni’s abilities. Part of her duties was leading the spirits of the dead from this life into the next. Communing with spirits and accessing other realms such as Deadside sounds very similar to the abilities of Shan Mirage. Anni even sports the same odd hair color as Shan Mirage. Whether this is coincidence or a nod to their similarities is unknown.

Anni proves herself to be a warrior as well, fighting her way out of the sacrificial grounds. Her ferocity in battle recalls another great warrior who shares her name: Gilad Anni Padda. Despite her skills, there were too many for her to fight alone.  Padda, one of Nergal’s tribesmen who trusts and respects Anni, comes to her aid. When Nergal himself challenges them, they in turn are aided by Cuth, who assassinates Nergal.
The trio, lone survivors of the battle against nature and Nergal, band together. Anni reveals that she was apprenticed to the tribe’s shaman because she was unable to have children. Interesting tidbit considering she seems to be the start of a family line well-known in the Valiant Universe. Perhaps her transformation into the Geomancer transforms her in other ways as well.

Anni feels a calling, like she is being led somewhere. The others join her in her quest. Led to a mysterious tree laden with glowing fruit, Anni seems to be speaking to a presence that the others cannot detect. All around them lay the bodies of those who we can only assume were led to the same tree. Anni takes a bite of the fruit and enters some sort of unresponsive state. This coincides with the emergence of a giant.

So what’s going on here?

In broad strokes, the natural world is in a state of disorder. We have a man and a woman who we assume are the first of a family line, the Anni-Paddas. They are accompanied by another man named Cuth – which translates to “snake”. They encounter a tree of “forbidden fruit” – and eating the fruit seems to lead to consequences, including the wrath of a giant and the very real possibility of death.

Thematically, there’s a lot going on here and it’s hard to ignore the nods to Adam and Eve.  Focusing on the story itself rather than how it relates to our own prior knowledge, it appears that many have heard the earth’s call but none yet have been successful. Whether that is due to the giant or their own incompatibility with the earth is unknown. Were the others shamans or sensitives? We know the outcome of this tale. Anni is destined to become the first Geomancer, but we have yet to learn why.

What makes Anni special? It may be her ability to transcend the planes of the spiritual world. It may also be because unlike the others, she has a protector – Padda, who can defend her against the giant while she is incapacitated by the mystical fruit. Their relationship may be the reason why the earth has both a speaker and a protector.

There are two more issues left to this saga. I’m looking forward to discovering more about how Anni gained the Geomancer powers, what those powers actually are, and how they aid the earth. In Anni, we have found a spiritual warrior, brave and clever. She may well be the reason that the Valiant Universe as we know it exists.

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Interior art by Juan José Ryp and Jordie Bellaire

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