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4001 A.D. #1

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By Matt Kindt, Clayton Crain, David Mack

This is it. The future is now as Valiant launches the event of the summer: 4001 A.D. A major event series featuring the return of Rai, 4001 A.D. #1 (of 4) is as smart as it is stunning.

Valiant’s Rai is set in the future of their universe. The series has been building towards a major upheaval, and the “Summer of 4001 A.D.” event spools out of that with the standalone 4001 A.D. miniseries. Adding to the robustness of the storyline, and promising specials reveals of their own, are additional multiple one-shots featuring the future versions of current Valiant heroes.

Valiant is one of the few publishers who know how to do crossover events. Like Book of Death before it, the 4001 series is accessible regardless of the reader’s entry point. 4001 A.D. #1 stands on its own, but also makes an excellent companion to Rai. Even readers new to Valiant will be able to pick up all the essentials needed to enjoy this tale.

Building on the events from Rai, Matt Kindt’s story centers on humanity’s fight against the powerful A.I. controlling New Japan. Earth has long been decimated, and those left behind struggle to survive in a harsh and primitive environment. Those in New Japan, now a floating city in space, fight for freedom against an all-controlling entity in a technologically advanced society.

The concepts of a dystopian future and rebellion aren’t new, but Kindt’s story feels fresh.  It’s obvious that much thought was put into the world-building of New Japan. Its structure and its society are extraordinary. You’d be hard-pressed to find such an imaginative and highly detailed world in any other comic.

The story is a page turner. A highly-charged drama enhanced by beautifully painted art, this futuristic saga hits all the right notes. It’s brainy action with a dose of science fiction. Kindt’s characters are compelling, and the struggle of the heroes will keep you riveted. Particularly gripping is the plight of Lula, whose introspection on her actions will give you pause. This story may take place centuries in the future with technology that we can’t comprehend, but the characters and their motivations are believable and universal.

David Mack illustrates the introduction to the storyline. It’s beautifully rendered to resemble traditional Japanese storytelling, forgoing panels for the look of a scrolled parchment. The illustrations themselves are simple compositions, but with strong impact, giving weight to the words. A circle, symbolic for Rai, is reiterated throughout the telling. This prelude functions like a chapter rather than a mere recap, allowing new readers to jump on board while still engaging established fans.

The story of advanced sentient technology being told through traditional sumi-e is a dynamic contrast. It steeps the reader in the traditions of Japan and sets up a building block for an understanding of how Japan evolved the concept of patriarchal “Father,” the governing A.I.

From this classic look, we’re swept up into the ongoing story with its futuristic depictions. Clayton Crain’s digital paintings have a vibrancy of color and an electric feel. His work has an energy to it, particularly his renderings of New Japan, which seem to pulsate with their underlying A.I. power. Color, texture, a sense of movement – all of these elements work in concert to give his work a cinematic feel that propels readers through the story. His art is a perfect match for the futuristic setting. Crain’s interpretation of the wired society feels as new and futuristic as the world itself. Nothing will prepare you for the stunning renditions of the city in the final panels of the book. Kindt and Crain have a surprise in store, and Crain’s imagery is so powerful that few words are needed to elucidate the situation.

If you read only one series this summer, 4001 A.D. should be it. Gorgeous depictions and an exciting story make this book a sure winner.

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